Goat dairy farmer Sarah Ajzner has found a way to build tourism into her farm business without spending a cent.
Before the pandemic struck, the tiny house on Ms Ajzner's Macedon Ranges property north of Melbourne was booked out every single weekend and sometimes twice or three times a week.
Now that guests are few and far between, she feels lucky to have set up the on-farm accommodation without investing any capital.
The tiny house is actually a rather luxurious trailer owned by Melbourne company, Tiny Away, which has more than 80 properties across Australia.
The sustainably-built tiny houses are typically positioned on a working farm, often totally off-grid, and hosts offer all sorts of unique activities, including horse riding, foraging and farm handling that show off rural and regional life.
Ms Ajzner said that after investing heavily in dairy infrastructure, she and husband Daniel hadn't been in a position to buy a tiny house but wanted to see how they could blend tourism with their business, Dreaming Goat Dairy.
"Part of our business model is an ethical and transparent business that incorporates animals, so we like the idea of inviting people to join our milkings and to see how we do what we do," she said.
The Tiny Away model made sense from a financial perspective, too, Ms Ajzner said.
"It works for us, in that sense that we receive of a portion of the revenue but we've got no risk," she said.
"We don't have any risk if there are no bookings due to lock downs and it's a good test run if we want to start operating our own ventures in the future to see what the level of interest is and what people want when they come here."
While building the dairy goat business is time and labour intensive, Ms Ajzner said the Tiny Away accommodation was easy to manage.
"We make enough money from it to be worthwhile, especially because we don't have to manage the bookings or the admin, or the guests' questions beforehand - that all gets managed for us," she said.
"We literally just go in there, clean it and change the linen and towels."
Ms Ajzner said now that she'd become practised, cleaning up normally took just 45 minutes.
The tiny house was towed to the property complete with everything guests needed, right down to cooking utensils.
"Tiny Away brought it over, set it up for us, made the bed and put in all the furniture, so came as a turnkey little standalone unit," Ms Ajzner said.
There's no power at the picturesque site Ms Ajzner chose for the tiny house, so Tiny Away supplied the off-grid option with composting toilet.
Solar power with a battery runs mod cons like a microwave and gas allows for hot showers while a small indoor pot-bellied stove keeps the space toasty warm.
A queen-sized bed up in the loft and a couch on the ground floor allows the tiny house to sleep two guests comfortably.
But Ms Azjner herself hasn't slept in the tiny house.
"I just work crazy hours with three kids, a dairy farm and husband who works off farm and all the rest of it," she said.
"If I actually get to take a night off, which happens about once a year, I want the best of the best and if there's not a spa in the bedroom, I'm not going."
The reality was, she said, that people wanted a holiday that's different from their everyday lives.
"We get a lot of young professionals who want an escape from the city and also a lot of pet owners because it's pet friendly, so people can come with their dog," Ms Azjner said.
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