Randal & Juanita BreenEcho Valley Farm
What do you currently grow?
We 'grow', or produce with the help of our awesome animals, Sustainable Pastured Eggs, Grass Fed Beef, Pastured Fresh Pork and Wood Smoked Ham & Bacon. We also each season experiement with a variety of vegetables in our cover crops.
How did you get into farming?
By Miracle! Both being in the Community Development and Social Sciences sectors, we experienced some burn out, but wanted to continue contributing to making (as cliche as it sounds) the world a better place, and communities an inclusive and engaging environment. It was pretty easy to transfer these skills and concepts into Regen Agriculture. Randal always had a desire to be on the farm full time, though we didn't think it was possible without inheriting or growing up on a farm. After an incredibly inspiring workshop and course on Regen Ag at Gatton with Joel Salitin, Randal came home and said 'We Can Do This!' ... and so began our journey in Regenerative Agriculture. It has been a fun, exciting, hard, challenging and eye opening journey so far - especially for two first generation farmers that didn't grow up in the industry!
What do you enjoy about farming?
The days are full and long, and sometimes challenging, but there is so much satisfaction in spending your days with the animals in nature - so that's a BIG plus! The other wonderful thing is to be able to share it with a community of people who support you and get what you are trying to achieve - that is priceless! I think farming in general too, is an industry that is so undervalued. As new inductees to this farming world, to see how the industry and the individuals in the industry are viewed is depressing! Our experience has been that this agriculture industry - especially Regenerative Ag - holds some of the most educated, creative and forward thinking individuals on the planet! We need to start valuing their contribution, experience, knowledge and what they add to society and our lives. We should all love farming :)
Why did you decide to farm without chemical sprays?
It was an easy decision and just made sense. Using chemicals and sprays means killing things, and regenerative or agroecological farming means growth and life, and they were two opposing concepts and we knew which one made sense for us! Our paddocks might look different from our convention neighbours (maybe a little less straight lines and single species paddocks of green), but the life that is abundant on our farm is so very very obvious once you walk through, smell the soil, and look at all the diverse native flora and fauna.
What challenges has this created for you and how do you overcome them naturally?
Using no chemicals is not that challenging, as you just have to let the natural sequence of growth happen. Weeds are not weeds, they're 'feed' and the animals and the soil still value, eat, and appreciate them! Occasionally we have 'less desirable plants' that want to take over and create a monoculture, and these instances can be challenging, but we've learnt to slow down, be patient, observe and listen to what the landscape is telling us. Usually there is a natural solution that can heal or remedy the situation.
What’s your favourite meal?
Sooo challenging to choose! Probably our stand out favorite is our 6 hour slow roasted beef brisket with fresh potatoes, crisp salad and a homemade zesty dressing. We do these on our farm tours - more for us than anyone else :)