Eli Bailey and Ebony Garner
Curved corrugated iron shelters are the first thing you notice when you approach the farm along Dewsburys Lane, East of Lake Bathurst. Inside the front gate, the high quality fencing and one hectare paddocks greet the eye, with piglets of many colours bobbing through the long grasses.

Often the reality of “free range” does not mesh with our expectations, but on this farm it does. Ebony and Eli have only been working on this enterprise for 3 years but the evidence of their great management and passion for pigs is everywhere.

They are on a gentle, west facing slop of pretty tough country. Stony ground with small hardy eucalypts dominate the slopes above the farm. Here sustainability is more than a word, and we can see the fertility in the oldest paddocks. The pigs are rotated between paddocks when they have eaten down the planted crops and turned over (and fertilised) the soil. The paddocks are deep ripped wherever there is compaction (usually around the water troughs) then re-sown with grasses and legumes. In 2 to 3 months, the next batch of weaners will move in.

This is a long way from shed-raised intensive piggeries. In one paddock, a litter of cross-bred piglets are trotting through a glade of young black wattles. Only a few weeks old, they were born outside. “The mother makes a nest the day before she is due,” says Eli. “Sometimes it is away from the others, but in this case it was in the shelter. She had 10 healthy piglets.” It seems that piglet mortality from mothers rolling on their young just isn’t an issue here. “We do lose some,” says Ebony, “but some are just stillborn. Very rarely do we have the same problems as intensive shed-raised piggeries.”

The farm has 6 of the 8 commercial pig breeds in Australia and Ebony and Eli especially love their heritage breeds like Tamworth and Hampshire. They also have Landrace, Duroc, Large White, and Wessex Saddleback. Some of these have dark hair, which in normal commercial terms can make them less popular with butchers. However Ebony and Eli are continuing to experiment with different cross-breeds to see which best suits their land, their business and their customers’ expectations.

They are keeping some pure bloodlines as well, and enjoy exhibiting their animals at the local shows. The farm is a 7-day-a-week job and Ebony and Eli do all the work, so a trip to the Sydney Royal Easter Show is an impossible dream for now.

After taking some of their first bred pigs to saleyards and seeing them sold alongside shed-raised pigs, they decided to try farmers markets as an alternative. They sell some pork to restaurants and some to local butchers, but the vast majority of their output (about 600 pigs per year) is sold through 6 different farmers markets – some weekly, some monthly.

The fertility of the land has increased to the extent that commercial pasture species can now be sown on the older paddocks. The local blackwattles that have colonised most of the paddocks are valued for their winter shelter, their summer shade, the carbon from their leaves, the protein from their bountiful seeds and the nitrogen from their roots. They are a valued part of this cleverly designed, well-run farm.

When we asked Eli and Ebony where they see the farm in 10 years, they were very clear. They are tailoring the operation to be manageable for 2 people, and expect to have permanent established pasture over the whole farm. Eli adds, “We also want to have all 8 of the commercial breeds on the farm.”

Produce Sold

Meat
All products are free range pork
American style and spare ribs
Belly roast
Boneless loin steaks
Butterfly loin steaks
Crackling
Cutlets
Hocks
Leg steaks
Loin chops
Mince
Rolled leg and shoulder roasts
Sausages
Scotch fillet steaks
Tenderloin
Trotters
Whole scotch fillet

Meat
All products are free range pork
American style and spare ribs
Belly roast
Boneless loin steaks
Butterfly loin steaks
Crackling
Cutlets
Hocks
Leg steaks
Loin chops
Mince
Rolled leg and shoulder roasts
Sausages
Scotch fillet steaks
Tenderloin
Trotters
Whole scotch fillet

Meat
All products are free range pork
American style and spare ribs
Belly roast
Boneless loin steaks
Butterfly loin steaks
Crackling
Cutlets
Hocks
Leg steaks
Loin chops
Mince
Rolled leg and shoulder roasts
Sausages
Scotch fillet steaks
Tenderloin
Trotters
Whole scotch fillet

Meat
All products are free range pork
American style and spare ribs
Belly roast
Boneless loin steaks
Butterfly loin steaks
Crackling
Cutlets
Hocks
Leg steaks
Loin chops
Mince
Rolled leg and shoulder roasts
Sausages
Scotch fillet steaks
Tenderloin
Trotters
Whole scotch fillet