Bakery thrives in outback ghost town

By Melissa Keogh

The ghost town of Farina in outback South Australia is the last place a traveller would expect to be met with the aroma of freshly baked bread.

But that is exactly what visitors to the almost forgotten remote town will find – in addition to freshly baked pies, pasties and buns.

Farina in the State’s Far North, 55km south of Marree where the Oodnadatta Track commences, has a population of zero but is popular with history buffs, campers and, of course, meat pie lovers.

For eight weeks during winter, volunteers flock to Farina and fire up an old underground wood-fired Scotch oven.

Aside from the bakery PHOTO: Rob Fairweather.

Farina is rich in history, character and charm. PHOTO: Lydia Strutton.

They bake hundreds of goods for hungry visitors, who can also explore old buildings and ruins scattered across the landscape.

The man behind the oven mitts is experienced South Australian baker Martin MacLennan, who says people’s reaction to the bakery’s existence is always the same.

“Gobsmacked – they can’t believe it,” he says.

“We have people come especially to Farina for the bakery – it’s very much on the map now.”

Martin MacLennan is the man behind the oven mitts. PHOTO: Rob Fairweather.

Martin MacLennan is the man behind the oven mitts. PHOTO: Rob Fairweather.

Men, women and children of Farina c.1990. SOURCE: State Library of South Australia.

Men, women and children of Farina c. 1900. SOURCE: State Library of South Australia.

Farina is located on the former alignment of the Ghan railway.

It was settled in 1878 for farming and at its peak was home to 380 people, a bakery, a hospital, two hotels, and a post office among other buildings.

But Farina slowly fell into disrepair and was completely abandoned in the 1980s.

About a decade ago Victorian Tom Harding and his group of caravanners came across the ruins and discovered they were in significant decline.

The underground bakery churns out hundreds of baked goods every winter. PHOTO: Rob Fairweather.

The underground bakery churns out hundreds of baked goods every winter. PHOTO: Rob Fairweather.

Children gather outside the Farina post office. c. 1900. SOURCE: State Library of South Australia.

Children gather outside the Farina post office, c. 1900. SOURCE: State Library of South Australia.

A Farina Restoration Group was formed and its volunteers from across SA and interstate have worked to preserve the town ever since.

At least $40,000 in bakery revenue every year goes back to the restoration group and its preservation efforts.

Volunteers also sell Farina merchandise which adds to the income.

There are plans for a new café, museum and training area in the underground bakery for trainee bakers, while a second oven was discovered behind one of the old hotels only weeks ago.

The bakery leads to the underground oven. PHOTO: Rob Fairweather.

The bakery leads to the underground oven. PHOTO: Rob Fairweather.

Laucke Flour Mills has provided four tonne of flour to the bakery over the years and Martin says this winter has been one of the best yet.

“The bakery continues to get busier and busier,” he says.

“It is the linchpin of the town.”

The Farina bakery is open until July 23.

Check out this amazing drone footage of Farina captured by Jacqui Kennedy of Get Twisted.

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