Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lunatic farmers

Yesterday I said that we had a busy 4 days, and I only accounted for 3. Well, yesterday was busy too, because we attended the Lunatic farm tour at Taranaki Farm with Joel Salatin.

The farm is about an hour north of Ballarat, where the wind was blowing and it was certainly chilly in comparison to home, or even Pleasant Hills for that matter, where we've been in T-shirts during the day. Luckily we dressed warm!

Taranaki farm follows Joel Salatin's advice very closely, with pastured poultry, pork and beef cattle. I've been interested in following some of the advice given in Joel's book "You Can Farm" and this was a perfect way of seeing it all in action.

We were also hoping to get some idea about the types of livestock that might be right for us and the farm. Getting up close and personal with cows, and seeing how easy fencing could be with electric wire.. it just made that side of things much easier to understand.
Joel Salatin entertaining the crowd, farm staff entertaining the cows!

Photogenic cows
The poultry side of things was a little different to how we would do it. Marty and I both felt a little under-whelmed about the housing the poultry were in. I'm glad to say they were working on a better version of the poultry house / tractor, and I look forward to seeing that in action! We know that things on the farm (as well as in the backyard) are always in the process of being revised and improved.

Kids loved the chook tractor
Looking forward to seeing this version finished

But the general principle of having the poultry follow the cattle in rotation is something we can all agree on. The improvement in the pasture was very obvious, and the quality of the egg and the happiness of the chook is going to be a million times better than anything confined.

However, I don't see us choosing broiler chooks for our situation. Marty and I both feel that the breed has been too heavily selected for fattening up rather than the ability to walk well, grow feathers or enjoy normal chook behaviours. Oh, and there's the flavour of course! Sadly that means the cost to keep the chook is more, but it's a moral issue for us, rather than a pure monetary one.

Although, the tour did make us re-consider getting pigs. We weren't going to get any pigs because it's not something we can eat, but the benefits of pigs are so numerous, it's certainly worth seriously considering anyway.

2 strands of electric wire is all that is needed to keep them in!
It was a good experience, and a fun day. The food provided was gluten free even, and Marty and I enjoyed a sausage (or three!) for the first time in a very long time. The pastured chicken had more texture than shop-bought, but even so, it didn't taste anywhere as lovely as the Dorking boys we process ourselves. (Of course, I'm very biased in my absolute devotion to the Dorking!)

We took the opportunity to purchase a copy of Joel's latest book, had it signed and even got a picture with the famous farmer. :)

The trip gave us lots to talk about on the way home, and plenty of things to consider going forward.

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