Land of milk and honey

From dairy farming to beekeeping, photography and welding, renowned burns surgeon Peter Haertsch turns every interest into a consuming passion.

Upon reaching 70, it’s fair to say that most of us would be intent on adopting a more relaxed pace of life, enjoying the opportunity to indulge the interests set aside during peak working years.

But for plastic surgeon and burns specialist Associate Professor Peter Haertsch, work does not have to cease for passion projects to begin.

In addition to being director of Burns Services at Sydney’s Concord Hospital and head of the plastic surgery unit at Wollongong Shellharbour hospitals (spending four and three days a week at each respectively), Peter Haertsch runs a 220 hectare dairy farm in Albion Park, NSW, where he keeps bees, makes marmalade and fly-fishes in the dam.

‘When something captures my imagination I study it,’ says Dr Haertsch. ‘My personal passions become, in e ect, my work.
‘For instance, I have studied apiary and have hives on the farm, not for commercial gain, but the sheer pleasure of keeping bees and giving honey to family, friends and the local community.

‘Welding is something that has always fascinated me and so I have studied that too – it’s very handy when it comes to fixing farm gates and fences!’
In addition to supplying processors 5,000 litres of milk per day, Dr Haertsch has been integral to the cause of embattled dairy farmers around Australia.

In 2011, after conducting extensive research into milk being diluted with permeate and driving prices for farmers down to the point it was virtually costing, rather than making them money, he was called to give evidence at an ACCC inquiry into milk pricing by a major Australian supermarket.
While the issue of milk prices is ongoing, Dr Haertsch’s contribution has allowed dairy farmers to boost their livelihoods and has offered consumers the choice to buy permeate-free milk.

It is in his parallel life with plastic surgery that Dr Haertsch produces not only dairy goods, but the fruits (and vegetables) of his prized garden, which he and his wife Carol put to use in their kitchen.

The couple are avid cooks who have completed culinary courses in Venice and plan to take another Italian sojourn in mid-2018.
‘Anything with tomato!’ Dr Haertsch laughs, describing his favourite dishes.

‘The garden provides us with a wealth of produce to choose from; corn, zucchini, beans, beetroot … the ‘shopping’ list goes on!
‘I was born in the Albion Park area [a coastal, semi-rural region two hours’ drive south of Sydney] and have been growing vegetables since I was a child. It’s a great passion of mine. I’m of Swiss heritage and I always say farming and gardening are in my blood.

‘As well as cooking I enjoy making my own antipasto and preserves, like marmalade. I use a meat slicer to cut the oranges – it makes the slices beautifully thin.

‘My Swiss relatives are the recipients of my marmalade at Christmas. It costs me a fortune in postage!’

Set on combining his passion for cooking with his love of food production, Dr Haertsch is planning to establish his own bottling plant to support the creation of high quality milk, yoghurt and ricotta cheese (the latter two he already makes as a hobby).

It’s hard to fathom where a man in his eighth decade finds the energy – let alone time – to devote to so many diverse interests as well as two consuming careers, but it is exactly that which drives him.

The only time Dr Haertsch ‘does nothing’, he says, is during an annual holiday to Hawaii.

‘I’m on the faculty of the John Boswick Burn Care and Wound Healing Group based in Maui and I present at the week-long annual conference,’ he says.

‘After that Carol and I spend at week at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu where I basically do nothing but lie on the beach or by the pool with a beer and a book. It’s bliss.’ AMP

A body of work

Specialist plastic and reconstructive surgeon Associate Professor Peter Haertsch is one of the most senior adult burns surgeons in Australia; director of Burns Services at Sydney’s Concord Hospital and head of the plastic surgery unit at the Wollongong Shellharbour hospitals.

In 2003, he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for his work treating the Bali bombing burn victims. He now counts bush re casualty Turia Pitt among his patients, whose treatment has attracted considerable media attention and is soon to perform her nose reconstruction.

Dr Haertsch has particular expertise in gender reassignment surgery and performs cosmetic, reconstructive and hand surgery.

He undertook his medical training at Sydney University, trained as a general surgeon in Edinburgh and has worked extensively in the UK and US.
Dr Haertsch has participated in more than 40 trips with Interplast, a voluntary organisation that treats children with congenital deformity in developing countries. He has performed surgery in Tanzania, Pakistan, the Philippines and South Pacific.

Patient: Turia Pitt

Patient: Turia Pitt


Associate Professor Peter Haertsch is a client of ProLENDING, specialists in medical nance and sponsor of this feature. `My dealings with ProLENDING have been exactly as I would have hoped for,’ says Dr Haertsch.