The Conscious Farmer Sheep!

Exciting news here at the The Conscious Farmer – we have sheep! And they’re quite lovely and to answer the question on your lips… yes, this will mean lamb! (Just not soon).  Here’s a little insight into why we’ve purchased some sheep and how they fit in with the way we care for the land, soil and biodiversity and how we manage our grazing to achieve this.

 

The sheep we have bought are young ewes (pronounced ‘youse’, meaning female sheep) that come from an organic farm and we have purchased them to breed from. The offspring from these ewes will be available as Conscious Farmer Lamb down the track.  Like our beef, our lamb will be chemical free and 100% grass fed on our pastures and any shrubs or trees they may browse on.

 

Why have we purchased sheep?  As a carry-over from the drought, which ended a bit over a year ago, the number of cows that we have is still low and breeding cows are currently very expensive to buy.  (There is high demand with many people wanting to build numbers back up after the drought). Sheep are similarly dear to buy, but here’s why we chose to go with them.

 

Time to beef or lamb

If we are to buy a cow today, then join her with a bull straight away, she will fall pregnant and be in calf for around 9 ½ months. It will then take at least 12 months for that calf to be of a size and weight suitable for our processing. From a business point of view – that’s a long wait to cashflow. We want the animals going to our beef or lamb to be born on our farm and bred by us, so we know the way those animals have been treated and what they have grazed on – assuring the chemical free and 100% grass fed nature of our product.

Sheep have a gestation period of (are pregnant for) around 5 months and it is then around 6 months until that lamb is of a size and weight suitable for us to process. So you can see that there is a significant difference in the two with regard to a wait for return on investment.

 

Timing of meat for you

Due to our lower current cow numbers, it will also mean that we will have a gap of some months between beef availability later this year, when we will be between age groups of offspring – waiting for the calves to reach a weight for beef processing. The plan with the sheep is that we hope to have hampers available later this year, which will help to fill this gap when we will have no beef available.

 

The Budget

We love producing nourishing beef to feed families that are conscious about their health, while at the same time we need to be profitable. Neither Derek nor I have off farm jobs, so the farm is how we make our living. So, in doing our budgets for the coming few years, sheep look like a good financial option for us, alongside our existing cows.

 

Why White Dorper Sheep?

Being chemical or pesticide free is important to us – for the health of the sheep, for the health of the land, the soil, the worms, for the fungi & bacteria below the ground that work in symbiosis with the plant to make available the necessary minerals for optimal plant health. We care about what all of this means for the health of the beef and lamb.  It’s also important to us for our own personal health, in the product we want to eat and to avoid exposure of using or handling any pesticides.

We avoid worms in our cows by managing their grazing – moving animals to fresh pastures, rather than them staying in the same paddock for weeks or even months. This avoids them ingesting worm eggs from the pastures they have been previously grazing.

The diversity of plants available to the animals also means that they are in optimal health, which ensures their best immunity to ill health.

Sheep come with an extra challenge to cows – this being wool.  We live in an area where our rainfall comes throughout the year, which includes summer rain and storms.  Wet wool, whether it from rain or from urine or poo around their rear end, comes with the risk of fly strike, where a particular fly lays their larvae in the damp wool and the larvae feed on the flesh of the animal. This clearly isn’t very pleasant for the sheep at all and will actually result in the sheep dying if not attended to. The problem is that convention farming methods treat and prevent this with pesticides – something we don’t want to do.  We could explore other organic treatments, but the work is still involved.  This brought us to choosing Dorper sheep, which shed their wool. There is no wool around the tail area where flystrike is of most risk, making them a great option for us as a more manageable chemical free option.

 

How will they fit into our grazing?

We will apply the same low stress stockhandling techniques with the sheep that we use with the cattle. This doesn’t mean no stress – otherwise we would never be able to move them from one paddock to the next (just as we wouldn’t be able to raise a child with our some discipline and ‘stress’ of saying ‘no’ to certain things). What it does mean is that we put pressure on (to create movement) and then, importantly, we take it off (allow them to walk away from us and out of the stress zone) and the sheep can let down.

Sheep graze differently to cattle in that they have much smaller mouths that can nibble at smaller shoots of green grass. This is very important to  recognise because the way that we ensure diversity and ground cover in our pastures is to ensure that plants aren’t overgrazed. One way that overgrazing can happen is if animals are in a paddock for too long while the plants are growing. They graze a plant down and when it tries to regrow, it uses its stored sugar reserves to grow in the absence of leaf material to photosynthesize. If this new growth is then nibbled off again before the plant is allowed to properly recover and replenish its sugar stores, it will weaken the plant. Repeatedly doing this kills the plants – bare soil occurs where the plant died and either bare earth is present or a weed or plant of lower value germinates in the place.

With their small mouths, sheep can get right down close to the ground to nibble at the very first shoots of re-growth.  Hence, the sheep need to be moved to a new paddock before this regrowth happens, which right now is not quickly, as growth is slow with frosty mornings and drier topsoil. It’s dynamic – changing with the conditions. The approach is the same with the cows; they just can’t nibble at those very small shoots so easily.

 

Grass Fed Lamb!

So we’re applying all the same principles as we do with our cows and yearlings to bring 100% grass fed, chemical free lamb to you, with a taste that you’ll love, as well as our grass fed beef that you already know and love.

Love the Taste Difference! That’s our invitation. It’s more than just the taste of our grass fed beef however – it’s what this taste reflects about the product. The terroir if you like – the set of environmental conditions in which the animals are raised that give the beef its unique characteristics – a term often used for wine.

Somewhat irrelevant to homogenous environments like feedlots and greenhouses, yet relevant to grass fed meats and beef, as the soil, pasture types and brush they graze on influences the final product.

Diversity of pastures

In our case, the diversity of pasture species available to our animals provides many different phytochemicals to the animals, which in turn add to the complexity of the flavour of our consciously raised beef.

Soil Biology

Farming with nature and encouraging the biology in the soil means things like soil fungi can access micronutrients from the soil that are otherwise less available to the plant. These micronutrients are then present in pasture plants and in turn in beef from the animals that have grazed upon these pastures.

What we love however, is that this diversity of plants and phytochemicals from the pastures and biologically healthy soils are giving more to our beef than just richness of flavour.

The phytochemicals and micronutrients are like nature’s medicines for the animals, the benefits of which then flow on to those choosing to consume such carefully raised beef. (Learn more)

We love that the taste makes our beef fulfilling and enjoyable to eat – we do get a lot of wonderful feedback from you, our customers, saying that you love the taste of our beef and even (and often) from something as simple as our mince! What we also love is that the taste is reflecting the health of our product for reasons stated above.

Know that Derek and I do our very best in caring for our soils, giving the animals access to a diversity of pasture plants and shrubs, choosing not to use chemicals in our production and ensuring our cows are always grass fed – feeding on grasses, forbes and pastures as well browsing on trees and shrubs. We produce this way for the wider benefits to the landscapes and water cycles, for the benefit of the health of our cows and for the health of our product – our grass fed beef.

We couldn’t do it any other way – as it wouldn’t fit with our values and we wouldn’t create a product we would want to eat ourselves.

If you feel the same way and would like to have one of our Grass Fed Beef Hampers delivered to you this month, you can see and order our different hamper options here.

There’s plenty more to read about how we produce on the farm, the health of grass fed beef and how to cook for the best nourishment.

Kirrily

We produce our grass fed beef without using any chemicals (pesticides – herbicides or insecticides) on the animals, in the animals or on the pastures that they graze. We do this because we believe those methods are a band-aid solution that is ultimately destined to fail, and more importantly, we want to eat food that is chemical free – remember, we eat the same beef that our wonderful customers also eat.

An exciting thing has happened here on the farm very recently and it sits so well with how we produce our beef.

We have a particularly nasty weed called Tiger Pear in some of our hill country and it makes prickly pear look like a fluffy little rabbit. It has inch long spikes with a barb on the end! I have been scratching my head pretty hard about how to best deal with it because it spreads easily, simply by catching on the animals’ coat (or in people…OUCH!!), and is then knocked off elsewhere, where it takes root and grows from there. The conventional approach for control is to turn to pesticides, however because we choose not to use chemicals (pesticides), we had begun bagging plants (with tongs) to place on a heap to burn. This is very slow and laborious and if any little segment of plant is left behind, it’s a bit of a waste of time.

While checking on some cows in our hill paddocks recently, I noticed something exciting – many plants were looking sick or completely dead! Closer inspection revealed the cochineal bug, which is a tiny parasitic insect that kills prickly pear and tiger pear (species specific). It has totally wiped out 100% of plants in a large area already and in a very short time. My understanding is that the cochineal bug was one of the reasons that tiger pear was first introduced to Australia – to enable the production of red dye. (The bugs produce carminic acid which is used to make the the cochineal dye). Here’s an interesting fact – cochineal is still actually used for red dye in foods, cosmetics and textiles and is making a comeback due to it being a natural dye. You can see the red in the above image, along with a web like structure that the insects produce.

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Cochineal – mature females grow to large sacs of carminic acid.

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Tiger Pear plant infested with Cochineal.

 20190409_142331

Tiger Pear following infestation.

In nature, populations of plants (and probably everything) will expand until the conditions no longer suit that plant and those populations then subsequently subside. Infestations of cochineal are just one of those examples of conditions no longer suiting the tiger pear plant, however with that would come the natural escape of some plants that are not exposed to the insect and therefore survive, which over time would allow that population to again expand due to the then reduced population of cochineal (due to the host plant population decrease) – and so on and so forth.

Kirrily and I have been spending some time collecting segments from the infested plants (with BBQ tongs!) and spreading them to plants that aren’t yet affected, in an effort to infect as many plants as we can and over a wide area to try and encourage nature along a little more than at it’s own pace and ensure a much higher rate of mortality.

When a situation might seem like it is hopeless and out of our control, there also just might be a way around it that isn’t fulfilling someone else’s dreams – i.e. the chemical company rep! This is just one of the ways that we control weeds and keep our farm & grass fed beef chemical free.

 Derek

I’m fascinated by the different comments that our customers make about our grass fed beef and the difference that they notice to some other beef consumed.  But what really interests me is how those aspects relate to the health of our beef and what we’re doing on the farm that might result in this experience for those enjoying it.

The first is that it tastes great.  We know it – that’s why we say “Grass fed beef… love the taste difference!

 

1. It Tastes Great!

The most common feedback we get is of the flavour of our grass fed beef.

The eye fillets we bought yesterday were amazing, great to actually eat beef full of flavour!”

Joe, Tamworth NSW

Like our customers, I also love the taste of our beef but what I especially LOVE, is the taste of the fat on the edge of a steak – it has an amazing sweetness to it.

“I’ve never enjoyed eating fat before but the fat on the beef was really tasty”.

Rebekah, Brisbane, Qld

Let’s look at why there is a taste difference and how that is also connected to the health attributes of beef.

Our animals feed not only just on grass, but on diverse pastures made up of perennial grasses, annual grasses and forbes – broadleaved plants, clovers, and all sorts of non-grass species.  Not only this, our animals also have access to different trees and shrubs to graze on (and they do!), where they source different plant compounds again to that of the pasture.

The primary compounds of animal feed are well known – energy, protein and nutrients (which are all very important for metabolism and growth). There is however a myriad of secondary compounds in grasses and plants that contribute to the health and wellbeing of animals, to their immunity. It is these secondary compounds of plants, ingested from pastures, that I believe gives our beef its great taste. This is supported by research that concludes,

“dietary diversity and phytochemical richness confer flavourful aroma-active

compounds to meat and dairy products” 1

 

In order for animals to access a variety of these plant compounds, they need a variety of pasture plants from which to choose when grazing. It is simply not possible to access these from a monoculture crop of oats, for example.

Hence, Derek and I choose to not only feed our animals on ‘grass’ (not grain), but we also choose diverse pastures, which inherently have a variety of these secondary compounds. These compounds provide an extra benefit, as well as imparting flavour to the meat – they are the medicine of the paddock.  Research shows that animals both inherently know, and learn from their mothers, that certain plants are a solution to particular health challenges (eg. parasites/worms), so given a wide variety of plants from which to graze – the animals are able to self-medicate. This improves our animals’ immunity and helps to avoid pesticidal band-aids to problems.

Research describes it:

‘The tissues of herbivores reflect the phytochemical richness of their diet. The richness of phytochemicals in the meat and milk products that humans consume can enhance human health. While cells of humans and herbivores need energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins, they also use secondary compounds to reduce inflammation, improve brain and vascular functions, inhibit growth of cancer, boost immune function, and provide protection as antioxidants and anthelmintics.’2

The benefits that the variety of plants provide to the animals, flows through to those eating the beef. As research states:

“There are many benefits that come from eating a variety of plants. Pasture finished animals also provide healthy meat. Their bodies have phytochemical complexity.” 3

It is these secondary compounds that lead me to the second characteristic we get feedback on – satiation.

 

2. I Feel Fuller after Eating Your Beef – A Small Amount Satisfies

This comment has only come from a few people, but I also suppose it’s something that one would have to be really ‘listening’ to their body to notice, so it makes sense that not as many may notice this.

Some of the secondary compounds that I mention above are responsible for satiety in the animals.  So, the compounds are in the pastures that create satiation in the animals. There is evidence that suggests that this flows through to satiation in humans that consume the meat from these animals.

Research says:

“The need to amend foods, and take nutrient supplements, could be eliminated by recreating phytochemical richness in meat and produce and by refashioning cultures that know how to combine foods into meals that nourish and satiate.4

 

The third thing our customers comment and love is not steeped in science at all, but has been noted by a number of people (including us!).

 

3. We Inherently Know the Difference!

A couple of our customers have commented that they can just tell if it is our beef. Interestingly it’s been children in a couple of cases! When served up some beef by Mum or Dad, they have commented “This isn’t Derek’s beef is it?” I don’t know the reason these children commented this, and we have had a similar experience ourselves.

Twice I have cooked a meal and Derek and I have commented that we didn’t really enjoy it. In one case, we were camping and had purchased some beef mince – I’m not sure of the origin or of how it was produced. We didn’t approach the meal thinking ‘this isn’t our beef, so it won’t be great’ as it wasn’t until the next morning that we realised – that wasn’t our beef!  Interestingly, on that occasion, it was a Spaghetti Bolognese meal; we noticed the difference, even among the herbs and spices of the bolognaise sauce. This tells me it’s more than taste, or maybe that the taste factor is important even among herbs and spices – I’m not sure…

A similar comment from a customer who normally doesn’t eat red meat as she finds it difficult to digest, but ours she was able to eat and enjoy.  I don’t understand the reason for this – is it the phytocomplexity of the meat, is it related to the energy of the beef? I don’t know…, but I do know that people enjoy it.  I also believe that if it makes you feel great, it must be good!

“The body benefits from combinations of food. When we (or animals) eat a variety of things we get synergies and it’s like two plus two equals eleven. Humans need phytochemically rich foods, in moderation – including pasture-finished meat.” 5

While we say ‘our’ beef in this blog – we’re not the only ones producing beef in this manner, there are also others conscious about how they grow food and raise animals – we are merely using feedback from our customers as examples.

 

We Are What We Eat Eats!

So we know that what the animals eat, affects our health. Not just whether cows eat grain or grass, but further still to whether they eat a monoculture of grass or whether they have access to diverse pastures and shrub grazing.

I’ve read this quote today. It sums it up and I love it! Not only are we what we eat, but

“We are what we eat eats!” 6

If you’d like to experience the taste difference and the health attributes of our grass fed beef and see if you can detect the inherent difference – we’d love to have you try it.  You can see our selection of Mixed Cut Hampers here.

In good health,

Kirrily x

Plants! – They are the millions of little pumps, pumping life into the soil on our farm.  The basis of that life is carbon – it is the building block of all things living.  Plants take if from the air and make plant sugars with it via photosynthesis.

Plants use these sugars to grow, and also push some sugars out the root systems into the soil, where they feed the microbiology of the soil -the fungi, bacteria and more. The soil microbes use these carbon rich sugars to build healthy, living topsoil.

Having groundcover on our soils – as living plants or as mulch (trampled to the ground by our cows), helps to keep the soils cool and moist, which protects those amazing bugs that are so integral to the building and regeneration of soil. The trampled mulch is also another source of carbon to the soil ‘bugs’ – to complement the liquid carbon sugars that come from the plant roots.

groundcover

Lots of groundcover here after the cows have left the paddock

 

The thing is, to have these actively growing plants, pumping life into the soil, and to have this groundcover of litter, protecting the soil, we need livestock.

Livestock to graze the plants – that they will grow, and regrow, and pump life into the soil as they do.

Livestock to trample plant material – that it will be laid down and form a mulch on the soil surface.

Livestock – to add manure and urine to the soil.

This is farming in cinque with nature. The wild herds of Africa and America grazed, tightly bunched and moving. They were bunched together because the predators (lions, wolves etc) forced them to do so – the grouping and high numbers of the herd offered some protection. They kept on the move because the high number of animals meant that the grasses not consumed were either trampled to the ground or covered by dung and urine.

This is the basis of our grazing management. Aptly stated by Alan Savory, founder of these grazing principles – “We must use livestock, bunched and moving, as a proxy for former herds and predators, and mimic nature.”

I liken us to the wolves. In the environment of our farm, we are the wolves – controlling animal movements with our fencing and water points.  We have created more and smaller paddocks – to ‘bunch’ the animals and move them on to fresh pastures more regularly.  We have portable water troughs that mean animals move back to a different point in the paddock to drink each time they are in the paddock, preventing bare soil areas around the trough from regular tracking of the animals.

trough on plain with cows

The planning part of the grazing is critical – and yes, involves a written planning process. It is flexible and dynamic with the seasons and the animals and with our observations of what the plants and nature are doing.

Planning grazing - derek on bike
Assessing paddocks back in April, for our current grazing plan. (Lots of calculations!).

There is much rangeland in the world that is simply not suitable for growing crops or vegetables. The option here is livestock. Food is produced and when livestock are managed well, the land can be improved.

This planned grazing we practice is part of Holisitic Management and you can see Alan Savory’s TED talk, explaining it’s impact and how animals can heal land.  (It’s about 20 minutes). Be careful – you might just be inspired and have great hope for the future!

Derek and I are doing our best to heal the land and soil, and we’re producing nourishing food for you while we do it! You’re always welcome to visit our farm and hear more about what we do. Just give us a call to arrange a time.

If you’re interested in one of our grassfed beef hampers, you can learn more here.

There is a sign in a shop that I visit and it says

‘Try organic food – or as your Grandparents called it, “food”!’

It gives me a giggle, but it also brings to light the conscious effort we have to make these days if we want to eat clean and chemical free food.

We are all too aware of acute health issues and their immediate impact, but with our life’s focus being pulled in so many ways, it can be the insidious – gradual and harmful – that we often forget; things such as the effects of continual exposure to pesticides – in our foods, in our surrounding farms, parks and common areas and even the stresses that we face in our lives. These are not obvious on a daily basis, so the gradual impact of these on our bodies and health is often missed.

For some years now Derek and I have chosen to produce food using chemical free, organic production. As I research this article, it is strongly reinforced to me why we have made this choice – for both direct and indirect reasons – both for our health, as we manage our farm and for the health of the product we are selling to our customers.

Pesticides used in agricultural production have been linked to detrimental effects in humans as well as in the wonderful array of wildlife in our wider environment – the amazing diversity and complexity and services of which the human race is reliant.

Pesticides have also been linked to a range of human health problems – to the point that some pesticides used in Australia are not registered for use in the EU and other countries.

While I often say our health is a multipronged approach of limiting the stress in our lives, being active, eating well, avoiding hazardous chemicals, staying energised, as well as one’s inherent constitution, it is clear that the pesticide aspect is an important one.

The effects of pesticide exposure on humans have been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, birth defects, neurological & reproductive risks and hormonal problems.

As an example, pesticides have been associated with brain cancer and other cancers as well as leukaemia and non-hodgkins lymphoma.  For a while I have been aware of the increased risk of non-hodgkins lymphoma for farmers. Studies show that women are 2.1 times more likely to contract non-hodgkins lymphoma if they had worked on a farm for 10 years and when living or working on a farm for 30 years, the incidence (regardless of gender) increases to 2.4 times the risk of the general population. I would love to see a study done where organic farmers are specifically compared with farmers of industrial agriculture.

Similarly since the 1980s, farmers and farm workers are disproportionally affected with Parkinson’s compared to other occupations.

The main risk of pesticide exposure comes with their use – those applying the chemicals, or to those who may come in contact with the pesticide in the application process – which is often farm workers.  Town dwellers may be exposed to such pesticides by use in their own gardens (eg. aphid and weed control) and common parks, or in homes for the control of things like spiders, termites and flies. (Buy a fly swat!)

Not only are farmers that use chemicals exposed to the pesticides, but also consumers as they eat the food treated with pesticides. There is much work done on the maximum allowable residue levels in food, so that levels deemed as unsafe to humans (through testing) are not exceeded, thus saving the consumer from some of the above described health issues.  My concern however, is that residue limits that may be acceptable to a healthy adult may be different than for those already compromised with digestion difficulty, other body stressors, hormonal imbalances or malnutrition. No two bodies are the same and they respond to outside influences differently.

Pesticides are also not tested for their effects when in combination with other chemicals or the surfactants they are applied with – which would truly reflect their presence in our environment and society’s exposure. What impacts might the combination of different chemical groups in our body have on our health? What difference might there be between the safe levels determined by testing on animals versus the human body? I also wonder of the impact of consumption over the length of a lifetime, and wonder if how the acceptable daily intake is calculated is appropriate.

Children are particularly vulnerable due to their small mass. Similarly, the elderly have the challenge of their body’s decreased ability to regenerate from any damage. And of course pregnancy is a particularly important time to limit exposure to pesticides as the baby develops – with some indications of links between pesticides and birth defects. Persistent chemicals may be stored in the fat of our bodies where they are out of harm’s way (away from circulating in the blood and reaching the brain), but under the high need for energy during the last trimester of pregnancy, the body can draw on fat reserves, liberating toxins that may be stored there.

As I stated earlier, while I do think that robust health is associated with a number of interrelating factors – low stress, a wholefood diet, genetics & a strong constitution – exposure to pesticides is just one piece of the puzzle, but certainly one I like to avoid where possible.  Every ‘body’ is different, that’s why some people can smoke cigarettes for years and be seemingly OK, while others don’t get away with this.

Writing this I am grateful that we do not use pesticides on our farm. I am concerned for my friends who are farm owners and workers, I am concerned for my family as we live in a rural region where pesticides are used, and I am concerned for the impacts on the biodiversity in our soils and ecosystems. Chemicals that have been used in the past are now banned due to their health risks – this might occur again in the future with pesticides being used today.

I do think we will look back on this era of agricultural and shake our heads at what is currently considered ‘best practice’ production systems.

But please don’t place blame or attack farmers that use pesticides in their systems. Farmers are in an industry where ‘best practice’ involves chemical use and advice to them is heavy with those trained in these systems. (I know, I used to be one of the advisors!) Instead, make a choice with your buying dollar – there is an immediate advantage. The presence of pesticides in children’s urine samples has been shown to be immediately eliminated upon the introduction of an organic diet.

If the food you want is chemical free, choose to purchase from farmers who are managing chemically free, who are building their farm biodiversity and restoring their land or who are moving away from industrial agriculture systems. Increasing demand for such foods will mean greater incentives for farmers to move to this style of production. You will also, in turn, influence the wider environment around you with your choices – the health of the soil, flora and fauna and of the biodiversity in our ecosystems.

You as a consumer have the power to change your environment through your buying choices.

I am heartened by the growing number of farmers that are seeking  cleaner, better ways of doing things – of introducing much needed diversity to farming systems, of looking at ways to improve soil health, and in turn, plant health, which will reduce the need for pesticides. It’s a slow and gradual rise – but I see and feel it happening and it’s exciting!

There are more choices of food increasingly available that’s production history is known – through direct marketing and farmer’s markets.  Seek it out! Buying organic produce can be expensive, so do your own research on which foods have greater pesticide levels. Things like spinach are highly sprayed, yet really easy to grow in the garden.  You might pick out a few fruits or vegetables that have higher pesticide use, of which to buy chemical free.

(This discussion could continue further to include genetically modified foods and antibiotic and hormone use in food production, but I’ll spare you that today! (And of course, we use none of these in our beef production or on our farm).

In practicing what we preach, our grassfed beef is produced on our farm without the use of ANY pesticides. You are welcome to our farm any time – to come and have us share what we do. We have an open farm gate policy – you just need to call us and arrange an appropriate time! Our details are at our website.

You can also see our choice of grassfed beef hampers here – which we can have delivered to, or nearby to you.

You’re invited to visit our farm, pick your own olives, have morning or afternoon tea on the lawns, learn about our grass fed beef and chat with us, the farmers – Derek and Kirrily.

Sunday 7th May 2017

What’s Happening on Farm Forage Day?

 

Pick Your Own Olives

We have Manzanillo variety olives that are suitable for picking and pickling.

Take home the olives you pick.

Bring your own bucket and/or bags.

Pickling recipe available.

$10 per family

 

Morning and Afternoon Tea

Includes beautiful home cooked cakes & slices, tea, coffee & herbal teas, and cool jugs of lemon water.

$12 per person.

 

Enjoy the Farm

Enjoy being among the olives trees, experience the farm where we graze our cows for our 100% grass fed and finished, chemical free beef.

Go for a farm tour with Derek.

Maybe see wildlife of kangaroos, wallabies and koalas.

 

Olive Oil to Buy

Olive oil from the trees on our farm will be available – $16 per 500ml bottle

 

Our Grass Fed Beef!

Learn about how we raise our 100% grass fed beef free of any chemicals – raised on diverse pastures. Learn about regenerative farming, why grass fed beef is a healthy choice, how to cook for best health and more.

 

100% Grass Fed Beef to Purchase

Take home some of our chemical free, pasture raised beef, No GMO’s, antibiotics or hormones.

Price varies with cut. Bring your esky!

 

Sunday 7th May 2017, Open from 9am to 5pm.

Please RSVP – Kirrily 0417 894 474 or kirrily@theconsciousfarmer.com

(please advise any dietary requirements)

We accept cash, Visa, Mastercard and Amex.

Children welcome.

Our Farm Forage Day will be part of the Farm Gate Trail of Taste Tamworth.

Taste in the Park

Accommodation suggestions nearby:

How conscious are we? When it comes to food choices, just how conscious are we in our decisions?

For those of us that choose to eat any type of meat as one of our proteins, ethics come into it because we are in fact choosing to take the life of another living being. It’s that simple, there is no denying it. If we make that choice, then it is up to us to honour those animals through our gratitude for the sustenance they have provided.

I respect that for some people, that is confronting and I also accept that some are so confronted by it that they will choose not to eat any form of meat. They have made a conscious decision and that is something that I value and respect.

Is it only omnivores though, that are responsible for the taking of life? Before a person makes any choice regarding their food type, I hope they have thoroughly considered all of the factors involved. There are going to be a lot of questions for you in this post, and there are no right or wrong answers, they are purely to get you thinking!

Every food choice we make supports one or more production systems, which may range from growing your own produce through to large scale industrial agriculture. When we make those choices, how much consideration, research or questioning is put into our decisions?

Are they based on convenience? It’s a busy world after all.

Are they purely based on emotions? How does it make you feel?

Are they because of something we saw on facebook or the web? And is that factual?

However it happens, have we factored everything in when we make those decisions? Are choices based on what we know and also what we don’t know about how the food is produced, sourced and processed? A conscious choice can only be made when we have considered all things as best we can.

Is the beef, lamb, pork, chicken or the dozen eggs you choose to purchase produced in a way that heals the land, or is it harming the environment? There are plenty of examples of both out there, which type are you supporting? This also happens to apply to vegetarian and vegan diets – how many millions of hectares are used for growing monocultures of soybeans around the world and what effect is that having on the environment? How many tens of thousands of tons of fungicides are used just for growing disease free chickpeas? How are the proteins for those diets grown and sourced?

Where animals are involved, are they cared for by always having fresh pasture available, or are they pushed so hard that they have to be hand fed on bare ground for much of the time?

How are they weaned from their mothers? How are they handled when they are moved between paddocks, or in the yards? Are the animals living in a low stress environment, where they are free to express their instinctual behavior, or not? Do these things even matter to us?

When it comes to choosing if we eat any type of meat, what values do we place on the life of another being? Does the emotional value of a cow with a cute face far outweigh that of field mice or tiny and largely unseen native mammals? If so, is there a threshold – Just how many little creatures do equal one cow? If we choose to not eat meat because of these difficult ethical reasons, do we fully understand all of the factors involved in growing the food for our vegetarian and vegan diets? Has there truly been no harm to any animals or the environment to produce that food?

Is there a point where we draw the line, or are all living things factored in to our decisions?

Let’s go even further and look at the effect your food choice has on soil biology. After all, nutrition for every single one of us depends upon how healthy the soil is. If the soil is supporting greater diversity of plants above, then it is hosting a greater diversity of micro-organisms below, and just that alone can make a huge difference to the nutritional value of the food that soil provides. When we look at production models, we have to consider everything, and I mean everything that is being displaced for that production to occur.

What good is it growing plants in monoculture (even if pesticides are not applied) if what humanity needs to thrive is diversity? How many living beings are killed off? The quail, the lizards, the birds of prey… or how much fungi and carbon is lost from soil in a system like that?

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On our farm, we have consciously chosen to establish diverse grassland out across the deep, alluvial black soil plains where our cows move across the landscape briefly every few months or so. While these soils can grow beautiful grass, they are also ideal for producing grain and other high yielding and high value crops. I wonder how many living creatures wouldn’t exist here if we displaced that habitat with monocultures of wheat or cotton, or even cauliflowers and pumpkins. There are ways to have the best of both worlds, but unfortunately they are not widely understood yet and their adoption is uncommon.

We are told that if we eat less meat, we can reduce emissions of methane, a major source of greenhouse gasses. In cases where management of the animals across the landscape is poor, this point is sound. However, who is accounting for the farmers who are sequestering more carbon into their soils than equivalent methane emissions from their animals? Don’t we actually want more of those farmers out there with their animals managing those landscapes unsuitable for other forms of food production? Who is aware of methanotrophs – soil organisms that metabolise methane as their only form of energy? These are present in well managed soils – right under the nose of methane producing livestock.

I would love for consumers to ask me about these things – but I’m not surprised that most people don’t know about these more complex aspects of farming.

True, it can be so difficult to obtain all of these details. Rarely is anything found on the label and there is so much more involved when we truly break it down than could be read there anyway. Generally speaking, unless you are purchasing directly from the person growing it, you are not likely to find out. The same applies to the various certifications that we as farmers can have. There is so much more to know than just a stamp of approval. read more about that here

The food system that we have today is designed not with the consumer in mind, but with the food processor and profit at the forefront. If you buy a loaf of bread (paleo people, think of a dozen “Free Range”eggs or something instead!), even if it’s sourdough from a trendy inner city bakery, do you think the grain used in that bread was grown with you in mind? It could be, but not very likely.

The more likely scenario – it was grown to meet a certain set of specifications for processing and a certain yield, both in order to maximise profit per unit of production to grow and make it. Now that’s not all bad, because without profit, how can a business be truly sustainable? But wouldn’t it be great if nutrition for the end consumer was factored into the price for the farmer growing the food. Imagine if all of the food grown in all of its various forms was purchased at a price according to how nutrient dense they are.

While many individual farmers do, that food system doesn’t consider the health of the micro-biology and quality of the soil now or in years to come. When those and many other factors aren’t considered, then how can we be sure that by purchasing that product we are making choices that take humanity forward, not backwards?

Unless you grow and produce everything yourself or have relationships built on trust with your farmers, making an informed choice is a very difficult thing to do. We can throw up our arms, give up, put our head in the sand… but then it just becomes another choice that we have made unconsciously.

Some things for you to ask where you can…

Is it a biodiverse system? In other words, is this grown in a monoculture (single species) or is it biodiverse (does it support many different species)?

Does it build topsoil and carbon in the soil?

Are chemicals used? If yes, why are they? What can’t be fixed by not using them?

What exactly do the animals have access to for their diet?

What are the conditions like where the animals graze?

Those are just a few and I’m sure you will have some of your own that are meaningful to you. Somethings we simply can’t find out about, so we just have to decide what’s right for each of us.

We can become informed and choose consciously or not, either way we are responsible for shaping the world we live in – there is no denying that.

Derek 😉

Read about conscious farming here

If consciously produced beef is on your menu, we just may be able to help you out! But remember to ask us all about it first!

See our grass fed beef hampers here

The Conscious Farmer – sharing our vision for nourishing food grown on thriving, living & profitable farms.

What if farmers could regenerate and improve their land while producing a healthy product? Well they can, and we do! Derek and I often write or talk about how we are regenerating our land while we produce healthy grass fed beef for you and we want to show you what we mean.

We have a gully area on our farm which was carved through our highly dispersive black soil years ago.  It happened because of a combination of land contouring that was done on neighbouring farms upstream, and a lack of perennial plants holding the soil together on our farm where we used to grow annual crops. These earthworks concentrated the water (unnaturally), which then flowed over our highly erodible black soil and created the gully. (This is not a criticism of our neighbours – they were only doing what was considered the best thing at the time and was actually compulsary for us all to take part in).

Holistic Management Planned Grazing

We decided to do something about this gully area using Holistic Management planned grazing techniques. This often involves grazing the cattle in fairly high concentration (though not always), and then moving the stock on (and importantly) not re-grazing until the grasses have recovered. The cows clamber up and down the steep sides of the gully (it’s like they’re playing) – tapering out the sides of the gully, creating hoof marks where water can pool and plants can grow which then stabilise the bank and prevent further erosion (see how the animals have disturbed the soil in the image below). We then take the cows out and allow the perennial grasses to germinate, grow and recover before re-grazing.

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You can see the below image of what the gully used to look like in 2003. Clearly the photo below and the one at the top are in very different seasons, which exaggerates the difference, but the thing to note is the sides of the gully. Below, the gully sides have no plants growing to stabilise the soil. This photo is actually after we had started work by using animals – the sides are already somewhat tapered and there are some (although dry) perennial grasses in the base of the gully. Prior to this image, the sides used to be sheer and there were no perennial grasses growing, only annual weeds, but still a plant! (That’s the pre-digital images era!).  Perennial plants are important as their root system is generally deeper and is there all year to glue the soil together.

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The YouTube clip below shows it a few weeks ago after rain and flooding and after 2 feet of water had passed through the gully. The sides have plants growing on them, which stabilise the soil and prevent more erosion and while you can’t see them here – there are perennial grasses that grow in summer. It is now a productive paddock for our cows, that was previously an unused, costly area of land on our farm. In the clip, you can see the hoof marks in the bank as our cows were grazing briefly in here only a couple of weeks prior.

Whilst the gully is still a bit troublesome and eroding at the head (because we can’t control the concentration of water coming onto our farm), we are doing our best to make sure any soil eroding at the head doesn’t leave our farm. The floor of the gully further down from the head is actually being raised in height as the water is slowed and the soil is caught in the vegetation and maintained on our farm. We would like to do more here such as natural sequence farming, however this shows that with only animals and plants as our tools, we can achieve great results in land regeneration.

Managing land in the extremes of weather while profitably producing food isn’t always easy, but we’re doing our best to leave things better than when we took over. This is just one example of how we are regenerating our farm while at the same time producing healthy, chemical free grass fed beef for you.  By making conscious choices with your food (and other) purchasing, this is an example of how you are helping to positively shape the world you live in. So from us, a big thank you!

Kirrily