Hidden behind the flowering acacias and fragrant eucalypts of the Macedon Ranges, at the end of dusty laneways and just out of sight, there is a quiet revolution taking place that is changing the way meat is grown, processed and sold in Victoria.
A collection of micro-scale farms, too small to support conventional meat production, are dramatically changing almost every aspect of the way meat is produced. The characteristics that glue this eclectic group together are surprising.
Foremost, is their unbridled passion to discard industrial-scale animal factories and maximise animal welfare. Like Jonai Farm or Taranaki Farm, they care for a handful of breeding sows to grow small numbers of pigs that roam the lush pastures and wallow in the red volcanic mud seen throughout the ranges. Or, like Hand to Ground whose famous eggs and spent hens go directly to customers at farmers markets and local stalls. While over at Vue du Volcan Farm, their ducks and veal grace the tables of famous local restaurants. Here at Milking Yard Farm, our award-winning Sommerlad chickens roam our forest and open pastures, free to roam and ‘fertilise’ wherever they choose.
But the similarities and passions run even deeper. These young, mostly first-generation farmers, have walked away from corporate or academic careers, bringing fresh eyes and overturning the traditional model of producing a single commodity. Instead, they are running multiple enterprises, efficiently ‘stacked’ alongside each other, and are capturing even more value by on-farm butchery, cooking, curing and smoking. They have created direct relationships with their customers through farmers’ markets or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription schemes that have allowed them to retain the profits that normally end up in the pockets of the large supermarkets.
And rather than putting further pressure on fragile farmlands, these grass farmers plant trees and regenerate soils and the environment in an effort to halt climate change and leave a legacy for their young families.
This quiet band of artisanal agricultural innovators are changing the way we consume meat. Why not visit them next time you are in the area?