About Chestnut Farm

Chestnut Farm is an 8 acre permaculture property in White Swan Rd, Invermay, on the North East outskirts of Ballarat.  Ballarat is a major regional town in Victoria, Australia, with a population of 100,000.

An old gold mining area, Invermay has a colourful past and was originally known as “Dead Horse”… clearly not a name selected by a property developer.  We are 15 minutes north of Ballarat and 90 minutes west of central Melbourne, on the main freeway to Adelaide.    The climate is cool temperate, with 700 mm/ 27.5 inches of rainfall on a clay dominated soil. Winters are less severe than most in the Northern hemisphere, with snow a rarity, but frosts reaching -8 C (17 F). Summer temperatures can reach over 43 C (109 F), usually without the high humidity common in more tropical regions.

Chestnut Farm is not a commercial farm.  The farm features an extensive vegetable garden, berries, fruit trees (apples, nashis, figs, olives, pomegranate, elderberry & others), chickens, bees & ducks.  We have a sheep named Dijon and a goat named Onyx. (You cannot eat anything you’ve given a name, right!) We have managed to get saffron milkcap mushrooms growing under the pine trees and have also grown oyster, Swiss Brown and white button mushrooms in grow bags.

WWOOFers are a key feature of farm life; they usually arrive as strangers and leave as friends. We’ve had helpers for over a decade and they’ve been an integral part of our seasonal cycle (albeit somewhat interrupted by COVID!). With international travel back, we’re looking forward to welcoming our first helpers back in Spring 2022.

There are three permanent residents at Chestnut Farm: Steve who owns the farm and has lived there since 1999 plus his daughter Ellen & her husband Michael, who moved onto the property more recently. Ellen runs her own business – We Bar None – which makes healthy snacks (and was the first company in Victoria to use 100% home compostable packaging). Michael works at a local distillery. They are both PDC graduates and ardent foodies! Steve & Ellen were two of the four founders of local project The Hidden Orchard which harvests fruit from unloved trees for community distribution. Ellen is currently President of The Hidden Orchard.

apples pots Chestnut Farm
chestnut farm shade hosue plants
Chestnut Farm chicken chook house


Steve Burns owns and operates Chestnut Farm. Steve completed a residential PDC with David Holmgren and Fiona Buining in 2000, as well as the inaugural All Seasons PDC in 2009. He founded the Ballarat Permaculture Guild in 2008 and has twice been Convenor/President of the group, which has over 100 financial members and 3000+ members in its FaceBook group.  Check out Ballarat Permaculture Guild here: www.ballaratpermacultureguild.org or on FaceBook here:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/ballaratpermieguild/

Holmgren Burns Chestnut Farm
chestnut farm compost students WWOOFers team
chestnut farm Steve France river

Other courses completed:

As a permaculture trainer, Steve has been involved in the design & delivery of training since 2008. Steve was part of the Ballarat Permaculture Guild team that developed the extended PDC format known as the All Seasons PDC. This course ran one weekend a month for 12 months in 2009 and in a range of revised formats since. BPG has continued to innovate PDC delivery and is currently successfully offering a 8 weekend PDC running from January to June each year.  Chestnut Farm is one of the main venues for the course.

After attending the inaugural event in Bolinas, CA in 2005, Steve has twice delivered with David Holmgren on the  Advanced Permaculture Principles and Planning Tools workshops run by David in Australia.

chestnut farm principles card game

Steve has delivered workshops, PDC sessions or facilitated events for The Diggers Club (largest garden club in Australia), Ballarat Permaculture Guild, The Shed (Pasadena USA),  Ballarat Begonia Festival, Clunes BookTown, City of Mt Gambier, Black Barn Farm, Milkwood Permaculture, Geelong Permaculture group and others.

In 2016, Steve brought Dave Jacke to Chestnut Farm for a 9 day Forest Garden Design Intensive, which was attended by students from all over Australia, plus the Netherlands, USA and Mexico.  Steve and Dave co-taught a Forest Garden weekend following the FGDI.

In 2017, Steve spent 6 weeks in the UK, presenting sessions at the Permaculture Scotland gathering & attending the London Permaculture festival, plus completing two Forest Garden courses: one with Martin Crawford at the Agroforestry Research Trust in Devon and the other with Chris Evans at Karuna Insight Design in Shropshire.  He also visited many fabulous permaculture sites.  He had the privilege of observing student design presentations at two PDC graduates: Sarah Pugh’s students from Shift Bristol in St Werburgh’s and also at Ragman’s Lane Farm, led by Matt Dunwell and Cari Aitken

Steve also manages a local market – the Ballarat Farmers Market which is held on every second and fourth Saturday of the month. The market  provides visitors and Ballarat residents with access to fresh local produce, including certified organic vegetables, fruit,  baked goods, eggs, hot food, seasonal produce and locally made beer, wine, jams, soap, preserves and similar items. (The market ranges from 50 stalls in midWinter to over 90 in Summer and also has a massive pre-Christmas Twilight market with 200 stalls)

In a previous life, Steve worked for World Vision International for 8 years, managing projects in Asia and Africa.  He worked in the field of competency-based training and assessment for over 20 years. He has degrees in Education & Psychology. Just for fun. 🙂