Living and working on the land is not for everyone and, sometimes, you need a bit of a shove, to find out if it’s really for you.
For Peta-Maree Hayward, it was literally a shove – but not for her, but a poddy calf abandoned by its mother.
Peta’s partner James had tried to save the calf, but had decided she couldn’t possibly make it, so started walking away. For some reason he turned back and rather than seeing a dead calf, he saw the tiny animal had started to take a few breaths. James raced back and delivered the calf, put it in the back of the ute, and Peta had herself a poddy calf – and not much sleep over the ensuing weeks.
“I always knew James wanted to go back to living on the land, but this really did it. After he’d rescued the calf, he said if we lived on a farm we could always have them all around the place.” Peta was sold.
For this young woman, who started caring for the calf from day one, calling it Marley (Moo), it was the start of the good life. Until Marley died suddenly last year, most farm visitors headed straight for her – usually armed with loaves of fruit bread and watermelon, her favourites.
“She’d come up to the gate when you called,” Peta said. “She’d even come up to you if you just waved an empty bread bag.”
The couple sold up in Moss Vale and moved to a property near Goulburn where they both worked off-farm as well. Peta-Maree secured a job at the Goulburn “Con”, where she managed the music school’s business. “I also get to do the pretty stuff,” she said, “like welcoming guests when we have events. I love it.”
But her passion has always been baking – and chocolate making – after running a shop in the Southern Highlands. Before that, she’d always worked in corporate customer service, but moved down to Moss Vale when her company uprooted to Queensland.
“But we were working so hard, seven days a week, it wasn’t good … so I thought, why can’t I start dabbling in chocolate?”
But it was more than a dabble. After the locals started tasting Peta’s rocky road, chocolate peanuts and giant freckles, business began to boom. The orders started streaming in online and the couple began spending their weekends at markets, travelling within a three-hour radius of Goulburn to sell the handmade bags of chocolate.
“It’s something that just gives me joy,” she said. “But it’s hard work. At some markets, you have to get there by 6.30 am to set up and be ready by 9 am. But I love it.
“There’s something about reviving memories for people. I’ve had customers ask if I’d make them chocolates from when they remembered as kids. You can make different things all the time, see how they go with people, but you can never make enough favourites, like rocky road or giant freckles.”
Peta hand makes every piece of chocolate that comes from the Goulburn farm kitchen, with James helping out with the heavy lifting when he’s not driving log trucks. Peta said she tries to source produce locally when she can, and hand ties every ribbon on every bag or box of confectionary that leaves the premises.
“My rocky road would probably be the best seller,” she said. “I’ve made five different kinds now, just experimenting with different things or what people ask me to do. I’ve done it with crushed up Mint Slice biscuits, with spearmint leaves and Mars bars.”
The other half of the company name comes from Peta’s beloved cavoodle, Milo who supervises most of what goes on in the kitchen – particularly cleaning up items that happen to fall on the floor.
Peta taste-tests everything she makes, but admits when it comes to snacks, she prefers savoury to sweet. “It probably has something to do with me working with chocolate so much,” she said. “You know what it’s like when you’re surrounded by something all the time, I suppose you get a bit spoiled.”
Milo and Moo customers have nominated the business for the Favourite Retail Shop award in the 2022 Business 2580 Awards, organised by the Goulburn Chamber of Commerce. The winners will be announced on 5 August at a dinner at the Goulburn Workers Club.