Volunteers help South Australian ghost town put bread on the table

Published: August 4, 2023

After two months of feeding grey nomads and other Outback adventurers, the iconic bakery in the South Australian ghost town of Farina has closed its doors for another season.

Since 2009, the volunteer-run Farina Restoration Group has been busy restoring some of the township’s historic stone buildings, and getting the underground bakery firing on all cylinders.

“We need about 40 volunteers each week to operate our work programme and run the bakery side of the operation,” said the Restoration Group’s Chair, Bill Brock. “Many new friendships are formed during the eight-week work programme, and many people are repeat volunteers from previous years.”

The volunteers come from a vast range of professions, and often learn new skills during their stay … including re-pointing the stones used in the old buildings.

The centrepiece of the operation is, of course, the 130-yearold wood-fired underground Scotch Oven which is used to bake all the bread products. Bake to the future There’s now also a modern bakery which produces a range of pastries, pies, and pasties.

All money generated by the bakery is ploughed back into the maintenance of the buildings and projects.

Old stone buildings are being restored. PIC: Farina Restoration Group

“Stonework is one of our major work programme tasks and is ongoing, with many of the old building needing work on them,” said Mr Brock. “There is no intention to rebuild them to their former glory, but to at least preserve what is still standing.”

Back in the day, Farina was a rail town and was head of the Great Northern line for two years during the construction of the rail line to Marree. The township was an important supply point for all the sheep and cattle stations in the area.

Visiting grey nomads will find that most of the buildings of interest around the old town have information boards explaining their significance. There also several walking trails that take in historical points.

While several major rain events affected visitor numbers this year, Mr Brock says, once the Birdsville Track re-opened, Farina was inundated with people on their way home from the Big Red Bash. There is budget camping available for visitors at Farina Station, and a special section of that is reserved for the volunteers.

  • Have you enjoyed a visit to Farina … or perhaps even a volunteering stint there? Comment below.

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