A lovely lady named Doris changed Lauren Mathers' life.
She is very kind, loves wallowing in mud, and munching on oranges and avocados. Oh, and she's a pig.
Doris is a Berkshire, and she was the beginning of a wonderful business for Lauren and her husband Lachy.
The proud owners of Bundarra Berkshires are passionate about one thing - making sure their beautiful black and white pigs have a peaceful, natural life, roaming, digging and napping under the red gums.
And because of this, their produce has that little something special.
Not only do the Barham free-range pig farmers raise pigs on their 40-hectare property, they also cut and cure the meat, creating delicious hams, bacons and charcuterie.
But raising pigs wasn't always in Lauren's plans.
"I always thought I would be a cattle farmer," she said.
But after the family property was sold, Lauren took on a new challenge - opening up a food store, The Long Paddock in Koondrook in 2008. And it was here that her journey with pigs started.
"We just couldn't source the pork we wanted for the shop," Lauren said. "So this sparked our investment in the pigs. We just wanted to grow enough pigs to supply the shop. We saw a niche."
And Berkshires, a British heritage breed, were top of their list.
"We wanted to sustain the breed," she said. "Berkshires were really rare, and they've got a really good meat-to-fat ratio, and this sweet, marbled meat."
And this is was when Doris came into their lives. But there was just one problem - she was lonely. So Wanda and then Betty joined the family, and then more and more.
They now care for 90 breeding sows, who have two litters of piglets a year, and five boars.
"The more pigs I had, the more I wanted," Lauren said. "I just love them so much. They do so much for us with the land. They are incredible animals to keep."
And Lauren and Lachy's family grew too, with Lucy, 9, Frida, 7, and George, 3.
"The kids just love it," Lauren said. "They help take care of the piglets. They can even feed the pigs on their own."
"The part I love the most is just watching the pigs in the paddock. And when it was the middle of the drought, I looked out at the pigs lying under the trees and digging in the straw and mud and I thought 'They are so happy. What am I so worried about?'. It is really grounding. They make you feel good."
And the love of pigs has been shared throughout Lauren's family, with her parents moving back to the area and starting to raise pigs.
- Visit bundarraberkshires shop.com
Snooze, dig and smash an avo
The most important thing for Lauren and Lachy Mathers is that their Bundarra Berkshires pigs are happy. And boy, they are living the sweet life.
The pigs spend their days ambling around the paddocks, eating fruit and vegetables, such as oranges, avocados and pumpkin. They also have access to a grain pellet. Lauren said their diet is 100 per cent chemical, meat and additive free. The pigs also spend plenty of time napping under the red gums. The wood is used to smoke their meats.
Lauren said their farm was biodynamically driven, so they don't use any chemicals and they use Demeter preparation 500 on the soil. They also use garlic and apple cider vinegar to drench the pigs if needed.
"We've got to take responsibility for what we are doing," she said.
The farm is solar-powered, and they also have a system where a tree is planted for every Bundarra Berkshires order.
Lauren said they were dedicated to making sure the pigs had a peaceful life, and it shows in their meat. "The pork gets a certain flavour from where the pigs live," she said. "The flesh is darker and has a firm feel, tastes sweet, rich and has a clean aftertaste, soft fat and great marbling which makes for great flavour and juiciness."
Holy smoke! It's sweet crackling
What do you do if you want to cut and cure your free-range pork? You learn.
And this is exactly what Lauren and Lachy Mathers did with their award-winning Bundarra Berkshires pork.
The Barham pig farmers built a cool room, boning room and a smokehouse at their farm. "I taught myself to cut up the pigs, with the help of books and butcher friends," Lauren said.
Now they sell their pork and specialty products, from hams, bacons and charcuterie, in their delicatessen and pantry, and employ butchers and packers at their Barham butchery.
They also sell produce, such as free range eggs, regional cheeses and olive oil, and organic and biodynamic lentils, flour and oats, as well as serve delicious homemade meals and coffee.
"I know all the products," Lauren said. "I know the people who make them."
Bundarra Berkshires sells pork and specialty products wholesale, through their online store and Swine Club, delivering delicious pork to doors in NSW and Victoria.