The Whole Hog


STORY AND IMAGES BY RICHARD CORNISH

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The pigs at Brooklands Free Range Farm have one of the best views in the world. The herd of Berkshire pigs grunt and snuffle about the pasture growing on the rich volcanic soil under the shadow of the volcanic mound of Mount Karoocheang. Captains Creek cuts a meandering path through the country, its stream lined with trees while the water in the dams glitters in the late winter sun. This is Brooklands Farm at Blampied, about 15 minutes west of Daylesford, where farmers Nat Hardy and husband Jono Hurst raise their herd of meat pigs and English white beef cattle. 

Five years ago they bought their 40 ha property. They had been living in Balaclava Melbourne, but the call of the country was too strong. Jono was originally a country boy growing up on the South Island of New Zealand where his family have been farming for generations. ‘Brooklands’ was the name of the farm Jono’s family first farmed in New Zealand. When he arrived in Melbourne he worked at Donovan's in St Kilda, Fenix in Richmond and manged Livebait, Mecca Bah and Salto. Nat too has a hospitality background, living 5 years in London worked for the prestigious Mustard Catering company that served the Royal Family. Five years ago they packed up their home and moved to the bush and started their herd of pigs and cattle.

“We wanted a rare breed of cattle,” says Nat. “That’s why we chose the British whites. Yes it was a point of difference over everyday Angus for example,” she explains. “But they are exceptional mothers, have a low-birth-weight which means lower infant mortality. Plus they have a white coat that reflects heat in the summer,” she says. She points out that the animals have black ears noses and moves that stops sunburn on the extremities. They are also very beautiful animals with a quiet temperament.

The pigs a part of a regenerative farming practice in which they eat and turn over the pasture, fertilise it with their manure, before they moved along to the next paddock. After this Jono reseeds the paddocks with grains, grasses and root vegetables such as turnip. The animals are also fed on a mix of spent grains from brewing, whey from a local cheesemaker along with other seeds and grains. The pigs raised for fresh pork are turned off at an age and size where the fat is mostly in the muscle meaning there is less trim and juicier, more succulent pork. They also raise a good deal of bigger pigs with more developed flavour for bacon and ham. Their ham and bacon is made with no nitrate –  not even the naturally occurring product derived from celery. At present the meat is sold at farmers markets but they are exploring the possibility of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in which customers pay three months ahead and receive monthly deliveries – via farmers markets – of free range beef and pork.

Brooklands Free Range Farms beef and pork is sold at: Daylesford Sunday Farmers Market; Clunes farmers market; Ballan Farmers Market; Trentham Farmers Market and the Carlton Farmers Market and Alphington Farmers Market in Melbourne. It is also on the menu at Lake House. 

Brooklands Free Range Farm. Contact Nat and Jono at jononats@optusnet.com.au

produceSarah Langproduce