In November 2011 I was undertaking the unenviable task of shopping for a birthday present for my wife. I had decided that the best gift I could determine was to get her a pet cow that we could leave on a mate’s farm. I think the agenda behind the gift was to get out in the country on a more regular basis as farms seemed to have an interesting allure to us both.
While standing at a cattle auction, not having the faintest clue what I was doing, or how I was supposed to purchase a single cow, I struck up a conversation with an older gentleman who I had just heard discussing ‘really bloody cheap’ land that was being cut up into small blocks and then spent 15 minutes being educated on the weather.
The cattle auction was a complete bust, I quickly learnt that cash, a PIC, transport, etc etc was required to purchase livestock and I had gone in underprepared. I did however like the sound of the cheap land. A quick web search a few days later and I found a 55 acre block 40km northwest of Merriwa in the Upper Hunter Valley that was on a creek, had a prime camping spot and fit the core ‘weekender’ criteria: Far enough from home to be a holiday, close enough from to be to accessible.
So in June 2012 we took ownership of 55 acres of land outside of Merriwa. Bitten by the country bug, we spend most weekends on the block clearing scrub, putting in fences, water tanks, troughs, cabins, toilets and showers. The work was tough and rewarding and a tad addictive. It was also bloody expensive and it wasn’t until recently when I started adding up all of the receipts that I realised how much you actually spend in order to build up a small farm.
But the basic plan had started to formulate:
Raise livestock in an ethical manner
Turn the livestock into quality meat
Sell meat to discerning customers
On the 30th of November 2013, while driving to a mates 40th birthday, we had an epiphany and made the big decision to move away from the Coast and look to find a larger farm in the Merriwa region. We had talked about it in the past but had never put any firm plans together. We wanted to raise our children in a country setting and setup a business where we could work from home and create something awesome.
In early 2014, while running through our weekly real-estate search, we spotted a quaint little house perched on a hill looking down over 300 acres of river flats, open paddocks and natural bushland. 300 Acres is hard to fathom when 55 acres seemed huge and we lived on an 850sqm block. So nearly a year later we moved into Merrifield. We went from being able to hear our neighbours singing in the shower to only being able to see two other houses from our veranda. Out in this part of the world, most people would consider this a hobby farm and nowhere near large enough to extract an income off of that is big enough to sustain a family of four and the bills that come along with that, let alone pay the farm off.
For us, it's big, dauntingly big. We have 10km of internal fencing, 6 cow paddocks and 13 pig paddocks, two dams, many km’s of buried irrigation pipes, dozens of troughs and a seemingly endless list of repairs and chores that need doing. I concede this is normal farming life, the problem is that we are not farmers (yet), I run IT projects and my wife was a Vet nurse and now a full time mum of two young aspiring farmers. So all of this is one great big fantastic rollercoaster ride, with steep learning’s, amazing highs and incredible lows.
So what’s our plan for all of this new space and amazing landscape? Big Food!
Porky Treats and Sublime Angus
Each of our Big Food plans are entrenched in firm beliefs that we have about the ways should be produced and we will break each one down in coming posts to help you guys, our fantastic supporters, understand why we chose this lifestyle.