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8 Feb 2011 - 11:45 AM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

Finding your favourite moment, your favourite piece of this multi-faceted lifestyle is like trying to say you have a favourite child. So many things I do since I moved to Puggle Farm are a pleasure, it’s hard to cite one.

But I’d have to say the most rewarding feeling is the support from locals. The dairy farmers who have offered their help with our new cow, Priscilla; Marcus, who offers advice on the planting of trees and the benefit of swales, and the other Marcus who helps with shifting livestock and who’s trying to help reduce my feed costs; Andrew, who helped set up my in-paddock worm farms; all manner of neighbours who lock up chooks when we’re running late getting home, or bring bags of surplus vegies to the door, or show up when there’s some serious slashing to be done; people sharing knowledge at barbecues who know so much more than I’ll ever know about when to plant the broccoli, why the lemon’s leaves are yellowing and just what kind of chickens will lay right up until the shortest day; and those who have no hesitation in getting their hands dirty when there’s lifting to be done or sick animals to care for.

In terms of pigs (a topic that I think anybody could spend a lot of years learning about and still just scratch the surface), I’ve been blessed by having met the folk at Mount Gnomon Farm in the state’s north. Can’t get the boar to drink from the special drippers that all the other pigs seem to be comfortable with? I’ll ring Guy and Eliza. Want to see how a large, successful, rare breed and fully free-range pig farm can work in an efficient manner? I’ll visit Mt Gnomon. Just need good people in your life? Guy and Eliza.

Guy Robertson and Eliza Wood are born into farming families and have set up a mixed farm in a stunning location. Their property near Penguin, in the shadow of Mt Gnomon, is inspirational. Guy’s brother has done a brilliant job on the fencing, the young couple are champions of rare breeds (the place is graced with runner ducks, dairy shorthorn and highland cattle), but it’s the pasture-raised Wessex Saddleback pigs that interest me most. In just a couple of years, they’ve grown from running a few pigs to doing 200 hams last year. In the meantime, they’ve dealt with serious rainfall, snakebites and the vagaries of trying to sell full-flavoured, nicely fatty meat in a market obsessed with low prices and leanness. Along the way, they’ve helped run a sustainability festival, Eliza’s plays in a local brass band, they’ve put the pork in front of chefs including Tetsuya and [Quay’s executive chef] Peter Gilmore in Sydney, while both holding down jobs. I feel worn out just talking about them.

Guy and Eliza are modern, old-school farmers. They are trying to build a business and a lifestyle using older breeds and a diverse mix of animals and plants; in part, the way it was done a couple of centuries ago, but using the best of modern technology and techniques. Instead of pushing an animal to its psychological and physical limits as is done on intensive farms, it’s about allowing good genetics and natural instincts to produce meat of quality. They understand the conventional way of doing things (they’re not your usual alternative life-stylers) but choose to do things their own way, in a manner they feel comfortable with.

But the best bit about Guy and Eliza, and so many like them, is their love of the topic; their ability to share their enthusiasm and knowledge not just to me as a novice pig farmer, but to others interested in where their food comes from and just how it’s reared. Check out their website, Mount Gnomon Farm.