That afternoon delivered a lightbulb moment to son David Ferguson, who set about diversifying the family’s income stream to add Airbnb revenue to the existing traditional farming operation.
“We were having a BBQ up on the hill, drinking a bottle of red, and dad said – ‘This would be a good place for a house’. I said – ‘That’s a good idea, why don’t we build one?’” David recounts.
The idea has now turned into the social media sensation that is JR’s Eco Hut. If you haven’t heard of it – you’ve probably seen it. An off-grid A-frame cabin perched high on a hill. It’s the latest chapter in the rich history of Kimo Estate at Nangus in the NSW South West Slopes. The estate was once home to future US President Herbert Hoover, the site of a gold rush and most recently a sheep and cattle property.
One of the most defining periods in this part of Australia was the early 2000s, which saw a drought like few others.
In the years of 2010/11 the drought finally broke and the Ferguson family had made it through. However, the experience left a deep scar and David Ferguson’s parents encouraged him to pursue another career.
David embarked on a successful career as a photographer working in events. In the end, it was a combination of his farming know-how from childhood and training in the creative arts that has proven to be the perfect combination to diversify operations at Kimo.
“It’s certainly the best decision that my wife Emilia and I have made in our married life. We were in a bit of a spot up there living in Noosa. I was shooting weddings all over Australia but just didn’t feel like we were getting ahead. It felt like we were dog paddling a bit.”
“We just mentioned to mum and dad one time that I might come home and see if I’m a farmer.”
When David returned to the land he worked the farm with his parents and did not take long to find his feet.
Weddings, agritourism and JR’s Eco Hut
David is passionate about diversifying income streams and decided to change things up.
“I was able to get to know the ropes for the first 18 months or so and then started to add my little twist on what this place does.”
That twist was always about finding a source of income that wasn’t weather dependent. David and his wife Emilia decided to host country weddings and agritourism tours. Both have been highly successful but it’s hard to top the response to JR’s Eco Hut.
“It’s staggering,” says David.
The family had an architect draw up some plans. “They came up with a design that obviously talks to people,” says David.
The property is now drought- and flood-proof, and this year Kimo made it into Australian Traveller’s Top 100 Unique Stays in the country.
Kimo remains a working sheep and cattle property and visitors are welcomed to observe what goes on.
“People who stay here generally have no idea about what goes on,” says David.
He’s concerned in some circles farmers are being inaccurately portrayed.
“It’s undeserved, so to be able to try and show people what actually goes on, give them a realistic view of what a farm is and looks like, it’s part of the plan.”
“Part of the mission statement that we have is to actually try to reconnect city people back to the country.”David Ferguson
“They see the sheep running around the paddock and having quite a lovely lifestyle of eating and just wandering around. They see that we look after the animals.”
David describes his role on Kimo Estate as one of guardianship.
“Looking after the place is a big part of what we do, and an important part,” he says. “Without the land being looked after, and without it being productive, then it’s useless to us. If we knock it about, over-farm it, or do things that are detrimental to the land, then we’re only hurting ourselves.”
David hopes to one day open up the shearing shed with a viewing deck to close that city country divide even further.
For now though, it’s a good spot to sit on top of a hill with a drink of choice and witness the impressive workings of an Australian farm.
If you enjoyed this feature, you might enjoy our story on the Cupitt family in the Southern Highlands. Read about their agritourism venture here.