Fire-affected Mt Adrah farmers take out national produce award

Mt Adrah farmers Louise Freckelton and David Bray awarded Delicious Produce Award for dorper lamb

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Louise Freckelton and David Bray are proud Mt Adrah farmers. Picture: Emma Hillier

Louise Freckelton and David Bray are proud Mt Adrah farmers. Picture: Emma Hillier

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These farmers have the best lamb in the town, and possibly in the nation.

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Just months after their property was ravaged by fire, Mount Adrah farmers Louise Freckelton and David Bray have recovered to become the talk of the town.

The couple managed to take out the coveted Delicious Award for their grass-fed dorper lamb this week.

Ms Freckelton said the announcement had come as a complete surprise.

"A local chef, Scott Clapham nominated us in February, right when we were really at our lowest after the fire," she said.

"We thought he was just being nice giving us a boost after what we'd been through. He said 'I've arranged a little gift for you', the next day we had an email saying we were in the running but we didn't expect it would turn into the award."

The announcement has come in the throes of the family's continued recovery, after two-thirds of their prime grazing land was lost to the Dunns Road fire.

"We've got one paddock left to fence, and half our boundary fencing needs to be replaced," Ms Freckelton said.

"All of the conservation area, half of the grazing and the boundary fencing was lost.

"It still looks really burnt and very sad, there are some lightly burnt areas though where there's some green growth coming back."

Still, Ms Freckelton counts herself as extraordinarily lucky to have salvaged anything at all after the devastating summer.

"I don't know anyone on the land who hasn't been affected, we got off very lightly, we didn't lose our animals," she said.

"There are people who have gone through hell and they are still going through it now."

The award also represents an enormous achievement from two relative novices in agriculture.

"Seven years ago we ran away from Sydney to start farming, we had no experience before that," Ms Freckelton said.

"We might have been slow to start because we were learning from scratch, but we came to it from a clean slate. We decided how our production system would work, how we would treat our animals. We started with the philosophy and worked to the practical."

Describing themselves as "foodie farmers from the inner city", Ms Freckelton said they had been instantly welcomed into the Mount Adrah community upon their arrival.

"This farm hadn't had anyone living on it for awhile, so people were just saying it was so good to have someone back here," she said.

"I think our [Sydney] friends thought we were crazy, but secretly I think a lot of city people would love to run away and do what we've done."

The small 335-hectare Highfield Farm and Woodland has been helped by a generous dumping of rain over the past several months.

"We've had 300 millimetres so far this year. For the whole of last year we only had 460mm," Ms Freckelton said.

But the fire has not been the only stress to impact the farm. Last year, the family faced a sizable drop in its sheep herd.

"We had to sell half our breeding ewes due to the drought," Ms Freckelton said.

"It has been a hard time for everyone, this [coronavirus] is actually the least of our concerns now. It means we can stay home and get work done."

To aid in their recovery, the family has also been able to high-five backpackers from England, Germany, and Portugal who unexpectedly found themselves in need of jobs due to the virus.

"They had flown in just before the borders closed, they did their quarantine and then they came out here," Ms Freckelton said.

"A lot of backpackers rely on casual work in retail or something like that which has really dried up. We've been very lucky to have them."

The story Fire-affected Mt Adrah farmers take out national produce award first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.

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