Baranbali Farm, is the farm story that dreams are made of. It has all of the dreamy elements; the rolling green hills of the Witta landscape unravelling before you, beautiful rippling waters of an amply sized dam filling the void in between. Sheep, horses, pigs, cattle, chickens and ducks. Vegie gardens. Wonderful out buildings and a beautiful traditional home – 80 acres of picturesque bliss.
Then there is the mesh that weaves it all together – an Irish farm girl that made Australia her home for love and whose passion and drive, along with the help of her husband, David, and children, has made her farmyard dream a reality, offering good wholesome, pastured free range, organic meat direct to her family and the local community through the onsite farm store.
Yvonne Ellis is quite the character. You can’t help but warm to her immediately – I think it is something to do with her Irish accent it makes you feel like every sentence is said with a hug and a smile. Yvonne’s laugh is infectious, as is her enthusiasm and what started out as an attempt to reconnect with her Irish roots, has since become a full time enterprise that rewards the family with nutritious goodness, all of which comes from the farm.
Located on Aherns Road, in Conondale, Baranbali Farm became the new heart for Yvonne after her family purchased some land in 2001. It is very green, and what I imagine would be very Irish, so I can well understand how she ended up here. David, Yvonne’s husband, originally stems from Northern Tasmania, so I can image that he feels right at home as well!
Baranbali Farm is filled with traditional favourites; Suffolk sheep (the cute ones with black faces and legs), Wessex saddleback pigs (the cute black and pink ones), rare heritage chickens (for eggs), ducks (for pest control), Jersey cows for milk, Murray Greys for beef and some straying geese that wander over from next door.
Yvonne’s farming philosophy is to have a balanced mix. Rather than just focussing on one type of farm animal, she prefers to stick to heritage breeds with good breeding progeny or familiar breeds of her homeland and have the farmyard spectrum – hence the sheep, pigs, beef and dairy cows. Each animal has its role, and a sustainable stock level is maintained so that the goodness of the earth is not over-taxed.
Their small herd of dairy cows are close to the house and started off as pets. I was treated on the day I visited with the new birth of a beautiful little calf (Daisy), just hours before I arrived. I was quite excited to get the first pats as her mother guarded her protectively. Yvonne walks casually amongst them – they are quite used to her being there and stop and lean in for a pat and a scratch, and a scratch… and a scratch… They provide ample milk for the family and there has been some experimentation with cheese – the first cheese was in the process of maturing.
There is a differentiation between the farm animals, which are, for instance, milked, and the animals that are raised for meat. We keep our distance from the beef cattle, pigs and sheep. We are not there to make friends. While they are not shy, and happily have Yvonne walk amongst them, Yvonne keeps her distance and visitors aren’t encouraged to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ any closer than the fence line.
The sheep are guarded fiercely by her Maremma Sheepdogs. It is quite fascinating to watch them. Yvonne explains the bonding process that goes on between the dogs and the sheep in the early days of their interaction. Dogs are introduced to the flock as puppies and without human interference they bond and become protective of the flock guarding against predators such as wild or domestic dog attacks and foxes, and strangers. Once bonded, they alert Yvonne if the flock is disturbed. It is quite beautiful seeing them sit happily in amongst them. Which leads me to ask why there is one dog that is in the house, rather than with the flock… Yvonne tells me that it was the first dog that they allowed to bond with them in the warmth of the home on the first night, rather than the cold of the flock, a situation that they were not able to reverse once the bond was in place… ooops… they however, did not make the same mistake the next time around. Fortunately they also make very loyal pets!
The farm is organically certified and no chemicals are used. Green manure and feed crops are grown, harvested and stored and the soil is nurtured, honoured and replenished organically.
It is a farming method that I revere and I enjoy seeing that an element of sustainability can be achieved. Yvonne also grows her own vegetables as well as indulges in a little whimsy with the cultivation of some spectacular David Austin roses.
All of the animals grazed for meat are organic free range and pastured raised, and slaughtered on an as need basis. It is as ‘nose to tail’ as it gets. All cuts of the beast are utilised. You can place an order for your prime rib steak, but you are only going to get it when the community has supported the utilisation of the rest of the beast. No wastage. The sheep are grass fed for 1-2 years and are farmed as hogget rather than lamb – hogget is generally slightly darker and richer in taste than lamb. It was the choice of Yvonne, feeling that this was a more ethical choice for their farm, even though it does mean that the grazing time is somewhat extended and while it is not yet available through the farm store, it will be some time in the future. Pigs are grazed for nine months (porkers) to one year (baconers).
The Baranbali Farm Gate is open every Friday 2-6pm. There are stocks of pork, beef and lamb – all fabulous and organic – you just need to be a little flexible when purchasing Remember, this is organic free range pastured meat – ALL cuts are good – or if out of stock, they may still be ‘maturing’ on the paddock. Additionally it is a great opportunity to visit a farm, the kids can have a little wander, say hi to the animals, and just enjoy the freedom and space, reconnecting with where their food actually comes from.
Visiting Baranbali Farm reminded me of my own childhood, growing up on a farm – very similar. It was a fortunate childhood, and what I believe to be an even more fortunate adulthood. Thank you for the hospitality Yvonne! Love your work!
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