This must be the place!

Better Homes and Gardens host Johanna Griggs shows Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine around her organic piece of paradise in the Wollombi Valley.

Between media commitments, her work on the board of mental health charity Beyond Blue, and the construction company she and husband Todd run together, Johanna Griggs has a lot going on. But this farm, which sits between Yengo National Park and the Watagan Mountains, is clearly her happy place. “We were staying at a friend’s farm so often that we started wondering ‘why are we always coming to someone else’s house?’ We should get our own!” she says smiling. Johanna reveals she’d been following the property online for almost a year.

“I really loved it, but Todd wasn’t convinced. He was adamant and said it looked like a demountable,” she says with a trademark belly laugh, which is even more infectious in person than it is on television. They’d viewed a lot of properties and “none had been right,” but this one reminded her of the farm near Mudgee that her family used to visit. “As we drove up the hill, I said, ‘Todd, this is the place that I’ve been nagging you about.’ And when we got here, he said, “I think you’re right. I can see it.’”

Feels like home

These days, whenever the couple arrive at the farm Johanna says the world appears to melt away: “It’s amazing how quickly you can forget about anything in your day when you get to the farm. Our lives are crazy busy but we now spend more than 50% of our time here. “This is where we’ll retire to, and where we’ll be full-time. It’s become a place that we share with family and friends. It’s the only place we’ve seen my mum sleep, even my older sister, who is just an absolute dynamo, has fallen asleep in the hammock,” she laughs. And it seems the lifestyle is contagious.

“A couple of our closest friends came up every weekend for eight months and, like us, said, ‘What are we doing? We should look for our own place.’ It’s funny how history repeats itself. They now have a property nearby and we are planning on growing old together.” It transpires those friends are well-known journalists and news presenters Chris Bath and Jimmy Wilson. In her capacity as host of Better Homes and Gardens, Johanna is an advocate for healthy living, for knowing what you eat and where your food is coming from. It’s a cause she wholeheartedly believes in and lives by.

Her country kitchen clearly sees plenty of action any day of the week. Ripe tomatoes, fresh from the veggie garden, are sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting to be chopped. There are jars of her own honey in different shades of liquid gold, and freshly-made sourdough starter is bubbling away in a large bowl. Within seconds we are swapping notes on sourdough bread recipes. Her heartfelt “I hate you!” when I show her a pic of my latest batch is the friendliest declaration of animosity I have ever received.

Alongside the produce on the bench is a set of binoculars, which seems slightly out of place: “I love bird watching,” she explains a bit sheepishly. “I have the binoculars at the ready at all times.”

Read more in the Winter issue of Hunter&Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story by Cornelia Schulze, photography by Joshua Hogan