Introducing John and Estelle Joseph of Brigadoon Harvest who farm near the little town of Tooraweenah at the base of the Warrumbungle Mountain Range in NSW. John and Estelle’s story is number 39 in my quest to feature 52 farmers to celebrate the Australian Year of the Farmer.
Summary of our farming enterprise:
Originally, the only occupation designed for man was that of growing food. I think that, deep down, the desire lies in us all to provide for ourselves. I know that, despite being born in Sydney, I always wanted to live in the country. And so did my husband, John.
And we finally got here, after much scrimping and scraping. We managed to purchase a 270 acre run-down farm adorned with an even more run-down house. Our goal was to earn enough to live on and we probably had too much romance in our vision and not much hard-nosed business sense.
We needed something we could start small and build up gradually. That’s how we settled on pastured eggs – inspired by American farmer, Joel Salatin’s, books.
Starting with only 30 hens in 2010, we have increased to 1000. We use mobile houses to ensure the birds do not degrade the pasture or pollute the environment, and always have fresh grass – even if sometimes the grass, thanks to our beautiful, cloudless skies, is not always emerald green. They are protected by five Maremma guardian dogs and without them we wouldn’t have any chooks at all, as they fend off foxes, feral cats, eagles, goannas, and snakes.
Being truly free-ranged really makes a difference in the eggs and this year we were one of the finalists in the ABC delicious Produce Awards, which was really very exciting, especially for us novices.
What is the best lifestyle factor that you enjoy as a farmer?
There are so many things to love about being a farmer, although I have trouble calling myself that having spent half my life in the city. We love giving our children the childhood we wanted and, as we homeschool, we love living and working with them all day, every day. Life is never boring, always busy, and very rewarding. We love all our customers who come religiously to buy their eggs at the markets and their enthusiasm and loyalty makes early mornings and late nights worthwhile.
What do you foresee as your biggest short term and long term challenges in farming?
Life and business in any sector is always going to have challenges but one that is closest to our front gate is Coal Seam Gas. Aside from it spoiling the view, once we go down the track of approving such activity, the consequences may be irreparable and there will be no point clutching our heads and expressing sincere regret, as has been done in the past with so many “innovations” like nuclear weapons, thalidomide, asbestos, DDT, lead paint, organophosphates and numerous other, now banned, substances. When will we all learn to be sceptical of the experts that so often make money out of our trust in them? The risk to our water, air and soil is too great. And ditto for Genetic Modification.
When compared to the above dangers, our issues with government regulations, and all their attendant licence and inspection fees, pale into insignificance. They are more of a nuisance and a yoke to small-time farmers and aren’t really a challenge that can be overcome – more endured. They tend to hamper, and often prevent, small-scale or start-up ventures in the food industry which is a real shame.
What do you wish non-farmers / city people and the Australian Government understood about farming. What message would you like to put on a billboard in Collins Street?
To non-farmers I would say – get educated about food production methods and get to know your producers and support them directly. What you eat is your responsibility, and not the government’s.
To the government I would say – well, what can be said that would make the slightest bit of difference.
To farmers I would say – focus on producing nutritious food and stop looking on it as agribusiness or a commodity like coal. It is the stuff that people have to grow their children on. On an ethical level, minerals in your produce should take precedence over yield.
So my billboard would probably be in all country towns rather than on Collins or George Street :
Nutrition before yield, people before profit
Mankind was once put in a garden and told to “dress it and keep it” (Gen 2v15) – this means we should work to make it produce healthy food and look after it because it really isn’t ours.
Contact Brigadoon Harvest
Facebook : Brigadoon Harvest