About our family & farm

Village Dreaming co-founder Mara Ripani

We are cooks, gardeners, teachers, land stewards…

Hello, and welcome to Village Dreaming — our home, our livelihood, our place to connect and share and learn. I’m Mara, the facilitator and co-founder, and I live here with my partner Ralf and our daughters Artemisia and Ahlia.

This website is a way to document the ongoing journey of our permaculture farm, food garden and wetlands here on Dja Dja Wurrung land in Blampied, Victoria, as well as the stories of people we meet along the way: inspiring gardeners, farmers, cooks and makers.

Community is really important to us. Sharing skills, sharing conversations, chatting about all things. Being with others makes us sing and dance.

Please join us on our travels. Grazie mille!

Mara Ripani’s story

Mara Ripani at her permaculture farm

In a double-storey terrace house on Lygon Street, Melbourne, I met a girl called Tammy who introduced me to a fantastic environment course at RMIT University.

Over the following 17 years, I worked with a variety of environmental organisations, and from each I learned a little more about myself and the community I shared beautiful Melbourne with.

I spent my university holidays WWOOFing, culminating in a Permaculture Design Course in Hepburn Springs.

Incrementally and without knowing it, I developed a great passion for greening cities, growing food, permaculture, preserving food, baking bread and sowing seeds.


Then one day, in a single-storey home in Westgarth, a German boy named Ralf knocked on the door of my share home with a delivery of sourdough bread.

From there my new life began.

Now with our daughters Artemisia and Ahlia, we are creating our new home, permaculture farm and Orto Cooking School in Blampied, just outside of Daylesford, in Victoria, Australia.

Cooking on the wood-fired pizza oven at Orto Cooking School
A volunteer holding a basket of tomatoes at Village Dreaming permaculture farm
Two workshop participants making pasta at Orto Cooking School
Making kimchi and other fermented foods at Orto Cooking School

How our permaculture farm got started

A volunteer in the gardens of the Village Dreaming permaculture farm in Victoria

In my 30s, with a seven week old baby (Artemisia) in our arms, Ralf, Ahlia and I met up with friends at Barbialla, a Tuscan farm. There we shared the morning’s work: baking bread, tending the vegetable garden and stirring quince paste, before coming together to cook, feast and chiacchierare (chatter).

Our Italian adventure inspired Village Dreaming, a place where guests could experience village life at its very best.

At our 15-acre farm in Blampied (near Daylesford, Victoria), we are slowly building a wonderful home, full of multiple kitchens, a large vegetable kitchen garden and various orchards.

We have also created a beautiful wetland to welcome native birds and provide habitat for dragonflies and frogs, plus areas for keeping animals, including chickens, pigs, sheep, ducks and geese.

Our farm provides opportunities for groups of people with a passion for growing, preserving, baking, cooking and feasting to come together to learn how to establish their own kitchen garden and then make the most from their homegrown harvest.

Mara Ripani's beautiful passive home near Daylesford

Passive solar home

Our home is made from light earth walls we built by hand from straw and clay.

This beautiful passive solar farmhouse is grouped beside our two straw eco-accommodation guest rooms, creating a piazza in the middle where celebrations and connections can take place.

A little more of our family story

Ralf and Mara at their permaculture farm

Mara’s Italian heritage

I inherited my food culture from my parents, and they from their country Italy. My family is from the city. Rita ran a hairdressing salon, and Mario cut leather patterns for shoes. My grandmother did all the cooking in Civitanova, as mum styled and permed and counselled women on marriage and children.

It was not until they migrated to Australia in the 1980s that Rita, having brought with her books with variations on the title, Cucina Regionale or Tradizionale, began teaching herself the dishes that Italy is famous for.

My desire to cook comes from my family, but also from all the wonderful, delicious friends I made while living in Melbourne.

My desire to grow food was inspired by Michael Ableman, who authored a very beautiful book, From the Good Earth (a photo essay of organic farming practices around the world) and by the co-originator of permaculture, David Holmgren.

Ralf’s German heritage

Ralf grew up in Baden-Württemberg in the south of Germany and migrated to Australia when he was 9.

He has been back to Germany several times to visit family and was inspired to set up a small mixed farm in Australia after visiting various family orchards, with extensive fruit, berry and vegetable kitchen gardens.

Over the past 15 years he has worked as a Water Sensitive Urban Design Officer for a progressive city council and as a Wetlands Projects Manager for Australian Ecosystems.

Mara Ripani in her garden
Mara Ripani teaching at her Australian permaculture farm