Days like today always bring joy to my heart!! I was fortunate enough to be invited along on a road trip to visit Johnno’s farm out near Imbil and his free range pigs. Okay, so that is not exactly true, I kinda gatecrashed. Katrina Ryan of Slow Food Noosa, mentioned that she was going on a road trip with Peter Wolfe (Cedar Creek Farm) to visit the pig that was being raised for an upcoming Slow Food Workshop, and I expressed such interest and enthusiasm, it became almost impossible for them not to invite me along.
My Local Harvest – Sunshine Coast Regional Food Directory, is about to undergo a major update, upgrade and visual transformation, so I am relocating the Blog on to Pebbles and Pomegranate Seeds. For this reason I thought I would repost some of my favourite blog stories, so that they don’t get ‘lost’. Here is one of them…
Repost from March 18, 2011 – Local Harvest – The Sunshine Coast and Surround’s Regional Food Directory
Anyway, we set off on our little adventure. I love catching up with Peter – always so many interesting tales to tell, all sorts of bush tukka trivia – he’s the Harry Butler of the foodie world. His driving though, holy hell, scary, and when I quipped that it was nice to see him slow down for the cattle grids (not) he replied that his driving motto is to “drive it as if you stole it”, so I guess I was getting a taste of what it would be like to get a joy ride in a get-away car…
We took a bit of a detour along the way to stop at a forest of Bunya nuts, where Peter often collects the nuts for some of the interesting things that he makes (i.e. the bunya nut falafels from a previous post). The season is pretty much at its end, but we could see how all the nuts – which are like oversized pine cones, but almost the size of small watermelons – had fallen and were opening up and the nuts going to seed. We found one small green one, which is how they look when harvested. I must say, I queried the wisdom of wearing a crash helmet while wandering through the forest, but realistically, if one hit you on the head, I think it would knock you out cold, helmet or none!
Peter actually found a fermenting bunya nut which he collected and was going to experiment with. Now he said it smelt like a smelly cheese of sorts, I would have said it smelled more like excrement, but viewpoints differ. Thankfully he placed it in the back of the 4WD rather than in the cabin with us as it would have been a very unpleasant ride otherwise.
Now, we were visiting Johnno, a friend of Peter’s, who had taken on the task of raising a pig for an upcoming Slow Food event. Johnno rears free range pigs, which he supplements with a feed mix of grain shoots. They roam freely over the property and have little corrugated iron bungalows which they reside in when not wondering freely.
I can’t tell you what joy it brings to me to see this. There is no avoiding the fact that these pigs are being raised to be eaten, and while that may be unpalatable to some, it is a fact. What is disturbing to me is that there are so few free range pig operations in existence.
If you eat pork – which I do and love – then this is a story that you should be interested in, as if you saw the conditions that most pigs are raised in, you would probably never eat pork again.
However, here we were on this amazingly beautiful piece of land with Johnno, who is raising pigs with a quality of life I could only dream about for the pig production industry.
They roam freely, but quite happily return to their ‘sleeping quarters’ at night, where they get a treat of sprouted grain and continue to root up tufts of grass. There is no muddy quagmire here – their living conditions are pristine. They all had grubby little faces but that was from digging up the grass with their snouts, not from neglect.
I mentioned earlier that the pig was being raised for a Slow Food ‘whole pig’ workshop/cooking class to take place in a couple of months. Now this is not a class for the fainthearted, but I think that it is going to be one amazing class.
To me the whole process is fabulous; purpose rearing a pig, having it slaughtered (at a local abattoir) then Peter will demonstrate how a whole pig is cut and utilised. What is even more wonderful is that Peter and Katrina will then go about utilising the whole pig to prepare a fabulous dinner. In the car on the way out, they were talking about some of the amazing things that they are going to make and I can guarantee that the participants of this workshop are in for a treat.
I grew up on a farm, and while I do find it hard coming to terms with putting a beast to death, it is a fact of life and an essential part of the food chain. In my eyes, this is the way that I wish the food chain operated; humane, quality rearing conditions, localised slaughtering and then use of the entire beast – no wastage. The male pigs are not castrated, their teeth are not clipped and their tails are not cut off which is common practice in battery facilities. The pigs are hormone and antibiotic free, their feed natural and easily digestible and the meat amazingly tender and superior in flavour.
It is going to be one amazing workshop.
Just before we left, Johnno had a special treat for us, and that was to meet Bubby, his pet deer that he found as a baby and reared. OMG, talk about absolutely gorgeous. At the rustle of the cereal box, Bubby made her way up to greet us – what a divine little creature. Apparently she is quite naughty, sneaking into the house to leave her ‘mark’. She is also credited with Christmas cake theft from the kitchen bench, which saw her outlawed from the kitchen permanently! She has quite the sweet tooth. Her favourite treat being Coco Pops (I wonder if she has tried it with cream), but she will settle for Just Right as she did when we visited and it is quite hilarious watching her chew away on Gummi Chews, which Johnno so kindly unwraps for her.
And yes, she is a pet, she is not for the food chain… pfew!
Wow, what a wonderful afternoon. Magic to me to see pigs being raised that way. I wish there was more of it, it is the way they should be raised. If you are not aware of how pork is produced in Australia you seriously need to check out www.SaveBabe.com, then you will see why I am so excited about people like Johnno, who take the initiative to operate in the way that they do.
While the above mentioned Nose to Tail workshop has come and gone, I believe Katrina will be hosting one through her Brisbane Cooking School, The Golden Pig in June (2015) and I am sure it will be as incredible as the last.
To read more about pig production in Australia visit:
This post was written by Petra Frieser – Local Harvest
To find out more about the Sunshine Coast’s regional growers and producers visit:
Please Note: Repost from March 18, 2011 – Local Harvest – The Sunshine Coast and Surround’s Regional Food Directory