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Taking the high way

Driving to Manjimup for this month's Truffle Kerfuffle (22 June)? You'll likely pass through Balingup and write it off as just another bucolic town along the South Western Highway. Don't.

Despite its triple-figure population, Balingup boasts a vibrant grass-roots food scene and at its core is Katrina Lane and her café-cum-deli, Taste of Balingup (shop 1, 63 South Western Hwy, 08 9764 1344).

In the short term, detour here for ace coffee and rocking sandwiches, but know that there's enough happening year-round in postcode 6253 to commend it as a standalone destination. April's annual small farm field day saw the town's headcount swell to 13,000, while February's Perth-chefs-meet-local-farmers dinner in the town hall was one for the ages. It all stems from a fierce determination to support primary producers.

"As a farmer's daughter, I saw plenty of difficult times in the '80s," says Lane. "I feel very strongly about wanting to keep farmers on the land. Things were subtle in the beginning but now I'm a bit more in your face." She's not kidding. Exhibit A: a poster in the dining room identifying all the growers within a hundred miles.

Balingup's main drag has other addresses of interest too, from the Aladdin's Cave of vintage kitchenwares at Rero Collectables, to Cambray Sheep Cheese's farm gate at the packing shed. The restorative properties of The Olde Shed Café's homemade sausages are nigh on mystical. For those looking for any more reason to visit, Mitch Mitchell's "Five of My Favourite Things" dinner on 29 June is as good an excuse for a road trip as any (contact Taste of Balingup for details).


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