My husband Lachy and I became free-range pig farmers by default around eight years ago when I saw an opportunity to grow our own pork for the local food store I was co-owner for. There was no old breed pork or free range that I could source to cook so I thought how hard can it be to raise pigs. Turns out we are quite good at raising pigs, but saying that it was a steep learning curve getting a grasp on nutrition, handling and managing breeding. We learned quickly that pigs respond positively to food.
We run around 80 sows and my parents have recently moved back to the area and are growing piglets for us to finish. They are running 25 sows so we have plenty of supply all year round without hammering our land. We are totally free-range. No sheds apart from small sow shelters and reclaimed shipping containers to block wind and shelter from rain and harsh sun if they want.
The pigs are our fertilisers, weed control and tillers. We don’t own any heavy machinery except for a small loader to move straw and hay, the pigs and the application of Bio-dynamic 500 soil preparation continues to improve our soil.
We are a unique farmstead business meaning that we control the paddock to plate supply quite tightly. In 2013 we built a butchery cutting room in our house shed due to the strains of juggling two small children and travelling across the countryside to get smoking and packing done. I learned to cut our pigs up and Lach took on some more responsibility down the paddock and off we went. We now employ a full-time butcher on site. We work closely together on utilising the whole carcass to produce some very delicious cured cuts, potted french meats, smallgoods, sausages, smoked bacon and ham, fresh cuts and bone broth.
Our place in the market is niche. I focus on nitrate free, preservative free and gluten free, which is how we eat at home. The pigs are clean eaters, no antibiotics, no meat meals or nasty additives. It's a vego diet and we supplement whey, citrus and surplus pumpkins and use organic and bio-dynamic methods such as apple cider vinegar for promoting good gut health and strong immune systems. The results are evident in the pork. Last year, we picked up champion organic produce with the pork at the Australian Food Awards.
We are currently setting up a cooperative micro-abattoir at Barham with a group of other like-minded farmers in the region. We all want the same thing: highly skilled and respectful humans carefully carrying out a stress-free as possible humane kill with the best quality meat and access to all the offal as well.
Crumbed schnitzels with lemon and thyme recipe
- 4 free range pork schnitzels cut 2cm thick
- 2 eggs, whisked
- bread crumbs - we use GF bread crumbs
- a handful of grated parmesan
- a handful of chopped fresh thyme and parsley
- plain flour - again we use GF or cornflour
- a generous grind of black pepper and a good pinch of salt flakes
- Knob of grass fed butter, extra virgin olive oil
- The zest of one lemon
Take the crumbs and mix well with some of the flour and all of the herbs, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Take the steak and cover it in flour, tap often excess, then the egg mix and then finally in the crumb mix. Heat a pan with a knob of butter and some good extra virgin olive oil. Test the pan’s heat with a small crumb, if it sizzles, it's hot enough.
Pop in the coated steak and cook for two minutes on each side or until golden brown. Leave it to rest for one minute or so while you get your salad on the plate. The pork should be pink and juicy when you cut into it- not white. To serve, I love a nice crunchy and simple slaw wither fennel and apple with cabbage and a light drizzle of homemade mayonnaise. Cut a lemon into wedges and squeeze over to eat. Simply delicious!