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Meet Meran Downs Biodynamic Farm, who are one of our most valuable and exceptional growers. Produce available in shops this week!

Fifth generation farmer Cameron English, Kirstie and the girls Emily and Annie live at Lake Meran between Kerang and Boort in northern Victoria. The property Meran Downs is a mixed irrigation and dryland farm traditionally producing cattle and wheat.

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Cameron’s forebear Rebecca English initially ran a grocery store in Ballarat with her husband during the Gold Rush, but foresaw the decline in gold and purchase farming land between Charlton and St Arnauld. Left a widow with five young children Rebecca left Ballarat for Dootabetic and continued to search for more suitable farming land. Rebecca finally decided on property on the shores of Lake Meran, being subdivided from the Swan Hill Station on the condition it was fenced and the rabbits removed. Rebecca purchased 1650 Hectares and divided this between her sons in the mid 1880’s.  She was drawn by the opportunity to develop irrigation farming on the side of the lake which holds approx. 8000mg when full. In the early days at Meran Downs, they fenced and netted the boundaries (some of which can be still seen today) and trapped and shot the rabbits. They installed a large steam engine to pump the lake water around the lake flats for irrigated pastures and crops. By 1908 Meran Downs was recognised for pioneering irrigated lucerne to feed and turn of fat lambs. In 1888 Meran Downs began recording rainfall records for the Bureau of Meteorology which still continues today. Throughout the years the enterprise mixes of cropping and livestock has fluctuated as labour, mechanisation and economics have influenced decisions.

Today the farm consists of 700 Hectares the original farm of William English, Rebecca’s second son. A concentration on livestock and cropping has been maintained throughout the generations.  Cameron’s father Bruce now 82yr of age became interested in Biodynamics after a visit to a naturopath in Blackburn.  Marcus Try sowed the seeds of change in Bruce’s thinking which lead to him attending a Demeter Biodynamic conference and then adopting  Alex Podolinsky’s Biodynamic principals, seeing the farm fully certified in 1988. Cameron returned to the farm completing his farm apprenticeship and participated in the transition from conventional to full certified Demeter Biodynamics.

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As the succession from Bruce to Cameron was undertaken the Millennium drought played an important role in influencing the farm operation. Meran Down’s shorthorn cattle herd were normally run on the irrigated pastures and a merino sheep flock on the dryland with a 1:3 cropping program rotating around the two. During this drought, the reliable water supply from the lake was diminished and was lost as the lake became dry for the first time since the 1850. Irrigation supply from the Goulburn channel system was reduced and a stock and domestic pipeline was install to service the dryland areas of the farm. The changes in water availability and quality forced Cameron and Bruce to suspend a successful small horticultural enterprise of growing irrigated trellised passion-fruits.  Drastic decisions were made during this period to maintain cover on the paddocks and avoid the loss of top soils. The farm had traditionally carried up to 1000 sheep and 50 breeder cattle. The decision was made to drop the sheep and rotationally graze cattle over the entire property creating more of a feed buffer and thus maintaining cover over the paddocks. This has seen the return of many grasses, wildflowers, native bushes and trees. The feeding habits of the cattle has seen these plant flourish rather than being nipped off by the sheep as in the past. As the farm labour decreases as Bruce steps away from farming, labour saving measures have been introduced, including the reduction in the variety of grains grown, reduced hay production and the dropping of the sheep enterprise. Today the farm focuses on producing high protein wheat, hay for supplementing the cattle production and a Shorthorn self-replacing herd running between fifty to eighty cows depending on the seasons.

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Over the years Meran Downs’ produce has been sold under the trading name of Meralish Partners (Mer– from Meran and ish– from English) and has been sold domestically under Demeter certification. For a short period in the early 2000 wheat was exported into Europe through B.D. marketing requiring shipping containers to be filled on farm. Milling wheat and rye corn has been sold to a number of millers throughout the country and feed wheat and seconds to dairy and chicken farms.  Yearling beef has been sold into a number of butchers in Melbourne in the past and presently two BD certified business purchase and market the meat under their own label. Weaners turned off at roughly twelve months of age are a live weight of 400-430 kg with carcass weights of 220- 250kg.

Biodynamics presents its challenges particularly in drier periods as a prepared 500-spraying program is undertaken each year across the farm. Cameron endeavours to begin spraying after an Autumn break preferably in April, however the changing nature of the seasons dictates when this can occur. With dryer winters becoming more of a norm, finding suitable spraying opportunities is limited. To undertake spraying, Cameron uses a removable tank/boom system partly built by Bill Chandler and the tank component by Bruce and Cameron. A trailing marker was used to guide applications, which has been superseded by a GPS guidance system. This allows greater opportunities for spraying when conditions are favourable by allowing night time spraying to be conducted. Cameron and Bruce started out with a two-barrel stirring system from Bill Chandler which they traded for an improved system about 20 years ago. The present stirrer sits upon an old truck trailer including an instant gas hot-water system. The hot water system is set to warm the rainwater to 37C and a six-horse powered diesel motor powers the stirring mechanism. The elevated system allows the 500 to gravity feed into the tanks as the ute drives underneath.

Cultivation has been used throughout Meran Downs history, although increasingly avoiding extra workings when possible. Cameron is currently using a tandem disk with the idea of turning pasture in (green manuring) to build the soil and reduce weed seed set in the spring in preparation for the coming Autumn sowing. Cameron tends to leave his fallow in a state which is not susceptible to blowing as the dryland soils are a light Mallee sandy loam. These soils are fragile in dry windy seasons and require protection. Cameron is questioning and has experimented with a number of different ideas in recent year. 2016 saw Cameron drill feed oats in to a dry pasture paddock in the Autumn with the idea of turning them in, in the Spring. The idea was the oats were to add green bulk to the pasture species. 2016 saw an exceptional wet winter spring. Plans changed as the paddock was too wet to green manure, Cameron decided to take the oats on to make silage. Rain and growth continued so the opportunity to make silage was missed and hay looked like the best result. Here again the weather had its own ideas and the oats were eventually harvested and the paddock was made into hay the following year. 2016 was also a year of amazing tonnages in wheat production, the best harvest since the introduction of BD. The farm is still seeing the reward of 2016 in the retained stubbles. These stubbles have been allowed to stand and breakdown naturally, mulching the soil and protecting the pasture growth. They have given Cameron confidence to run the cattle on the dryland during this long dry season as they soil remains covered.

Differing ideas and techniques are used on both the lake paddock and an irrigation block on the Wandella Creek. The creek soils are a heavy, crumbly, rich black soils type where he lake soils are a rich dark sandy loam. The lake soils are the first to respond after the Autumn break in terms of cattle feed and the dry land is the last to respond. During the early Autumn irrigation is used on the creek block and occasionally the lake paddocks to bring up a reliable source of cattle feed while, there is still warmth for its growth. Weaner cattle and calving cows utilise this feed until an Autumn break occurs with the ability to strip graze the pastures if required. Cropping occurs on a smaller scale on the irrigation country mainly to secure cattle fodder as in hay and silage and as a seed reserve.

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A program of infrastructure replacement is ongoing, seeing fencing replaced and new cattle yards installed. Future plans include continued fencing replacement and subdivision of the largest dryland paddock to better facilitate rotational grazing. Securing a reliable water supply for the lake paddocks and flats is imperative, as reliability and quality is reduced.

BD has helped in our soil development over the years creating richer deeper soils colours across all soil types. Even after a dry 2018 with only 225ml falling across the year down, from our mean of 370ml, friable soils have been maintained. Our BD farm seems to create its own atmosphere, at times fog, forms over paddocks and stop at boundary fence line, neighbours comment that we receive rain which they don’t. Our soils seem to accept rain when it comes and leaves the surface feeling like a sponge where water runs off our neighbours. It is our belief that our BD principles create vibrant soils which create highly nutritious plants, feeding cattle and humans alike. Our paddocks are alive with insects including numerous varieties of ants and a haven for a number of wild bee hives. Native animals make their home on the farm in the remanent veg and feed in the paddocks. It not unusual to see flocks of Ibis venturing into the dryland paddocks rather than following the water line when irrigating. Quail make their home in the dryland paddocks and flock of Grey Crowned Babblers frequent the lake flats along with many other birds and reptile including turtles. It is our belief the farm is in better condition now than when first settled when overrun with rabbits. We believe that Demeter Biodynamic principals have help to achieve this.

 

Team Rural Organics is a Winner!

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At Rural Organics, we put our Team first, so it was a huge buzz to win the 10km Team category, at the Melbourne Marathon in October. It was Alice, (Janie’s 3rd daughter), who with her competitive juices flowing, sparked the idea to create the Rural Organics Team and try to win their mixed social category, just for a bit of fun.  She realized that the winning times from last years team event, were close to the best times her sisters and friends could run, so thought, “why not get a team together and give it a go!” As long as we all gave it our best effort, had fun, encouraged and supported each other,  we would have been happy, so it was huge bonus to discover that we won! There were  eleven team members; Mum, four of her daughters, three grandsons, a granddaughter, and some awesome friends too.

 

Drought Relief

Unfortunately the family property which is one of Rural Organics meat suppliers, along with many Aussie Farms, is currently battling one of the worst droughts in modern history. So this was a much needed and happy diversion which created a great memory for all and lifted everyone’s spirits.

Health Benefits, especially for women:

Janies daughters all say eating organic red meat is a vital iron, protein and energy source to help their everyday wellbeing and achieve their life goals. Eating organic is even better because you know you are doing something good for our planet and that animal care and wellbeing is priority.  Here is what qualified personal trainer and life counsellor, Gracie had to say on her instagram page about Rural Organics Red meat:

Gracie’s experience:

“It really is ironfood! We are all different & need to do what works for our own bodies. Women and runners in particular need more iron rich foods and absorbing it through red meat is amazingly good for you (especially if you have vitamin C with it & reduce caffeine when you have it). I respect people’s choices and I actually tried to be a vegetarian for nine months and lost most of my mojo/energy and became anemic despite researching and working with my doctor to try to supplement with iron tabs & other foods. My body just couldn’t get or absorb iron without red meat – So I decided eating organic red meat is my best option whenever I can. Now, my energy levels are great. I love animals and I choose organic.”

In our eyes, as long as you give any challenge life throws at you, your honest, total and best effort to overcome it, you are winning!

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Ballangeich Organic Angus Beef

At Rural Organics we are passionate about the people who work with us to bring you amazing quality beef and lamb, from the paddock to the plate.  With that in mind, we’d like to introduce you to John and Sue Sambell and their team from Ballangeich Organic Angus.

Janie from Rural Organics visiting with John Sambell

Janie from Rural Organics visiting with John at the farm.

John says:

“Organics is a better way to go. We have been using organic fertilisers for the last 15-20 years. The more you see of organics the more you see it is a good idea. Using naturally sourced products greatly improves the soil, the grass, and benefits the health of the cattle. The cattle are handled with care in a low stress environment. Our stock are high marbling grass fed cattle resulting in juicy, flavorsome and tender beef.”

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The Sambells know excellent quality meat, it runs in the family. John’s father was a butcher, who with his mother, turned to farming when they bought their property in the 1970′s. It has since expanded to be 4000 acres, now running 2200 cattle and now their team has also grown to include John, Sue, their son Steven ….and manager Nathan who has been there 11 years.

Ballangeich are renowned for producing high quality Angus beef. While organic farming practices have been used at Ballangeich for the last 20 years, this was formalised when the farm achieved certification in 2011.

The farmers amongst you reading this will appreciate that John also appreciates diversity in farming, breeding bulls and high quality beef. He did the first lot of Artificial Insemination in 1982 and was one of the first to do power plate calves.

It is easy to see why their meat is amazing and farm successful when you hear John talk passionately about having his first lot of steers come up naturally with no drenching and that he partakes in the Beef and Wheat Field Days going from one end of Victoria to the other. This man loves a challenge!

We wish all at Ballangeich the best of luck for the future and welcome them to our Rural Organic Family.

Alice

Alice from Rural Organics at Ballangeich

 

 

Rural Organics Banner - Justine and Mum

Rural Organics Meat – fuels a trip to China for Gracie’s Ironman 70.3 Hefei

G’day, it’s Gracie here, writing for Rural Organics.

It has always been a dream of Mum’s (founder Janie McClure) to visit China and explore opportunities to export our amazing and delicious Rural Organics Meat. So luckily for me, when I mentioned to Mum that I wanted to go to China to compete it the very first Ironman 70.3. She jumped straight onboard!

Mum wasn’t the only one who was up for the challenge. Coach and good friend Annie Martin was also on board to race and a wonderful friend Justine Reanney, who lives and works in Shanghai was delighted at the thought of coming to the triathlon, supporting – and hosting us magnificently in Shanghai afterwards.  Thankfully, Johnny was happy to hold the  forte at home on the family front and give his support! It was awesome – our future adventure was coming to life.

Mum organised work meetings for after the race in Shanghai and our name: ‘Team Hefei’ emerged…. our adventure began.

As a bit of background, earlier this year, ‘Ironman,’ the global organiser of Ironman Triathlon races, was bought out by a huge Chinese Company called ‘Dalian Wanda Group,’ China’s biggest commercial real estate developer – (for a lazy 650 million). As such, a big part of the direction of Ironman’s growth looks to be heading toward Chinese shores in the future.

Race day came and went – Annie came 2nd in her age-group and qualified for the Hawaiian Ironman World Championship which is fantastic. I finished 4th in my age-group and was glad to see some improvements in my racing. Justine and Mum were awesome supporters!

We finished our trip with a few days in Shanghai where we relaxed, took in the city and were delighted to meet Tony Mesiano from Tenderplus and find out more about export opportunities.

The Chinese people were wonderful to us. It was a beautiful adventure and shared experience for all.

Amazing Wagyu – from the paddock to the plate

For steak lovers here and around the world, you wouldn’t think it could get much better, or more mouth-watering than an incredible, beautifully-cooked, wagyu steak.

From the paddock to your plate - photo credit Hagan's Organic butcher

From the paddock to your plate – photo credit Hagan’s Organic butcher

Well, we at Rural Organics are here to share with you, a truly exceptional product, made by truly exceptional people….Biodynamic, Organic – amazingly cared for, Wagyu beef, courtesy of Trish and John Stewart and their beautiful farm at the base of the well-known ‘Grampions,’ in Victoria.  

Trish Stewart & their Biodynamic Wagyu

Trish Stewart & their Biodynamic Wagyu

The Stewart family have been farming beef for generations and now,  they specifically concentrate at perfecting Biodynamic Wagyu.  They are passionate about the care of their beef and land.  In particular they use a process that is known as “prepared 500” (or biodynamic soil spray) which was originally developed by Rudolf Steiner.

The word, ‘biodynamic’ means ‘enhanced organic farming.’  Organic farmers can only be accredited and certified by following strict procedures and taking incredible care of their land and animals. Bio-dynamic farmers take this to another level, with even more enhanced organic farming methods, that are on-song and intune with mother nature and the natural rhythms of life.

Stewart Family Biodynamic Wagyu Beef, is 100% grass-fed, with with the addition of their own silage, green feed and certified organic hay.  Around  50% – 75% of the beef on their farm is Wagyu, the other being Angus beef. The property is incredibly beautiful and a wholesome environment hence their animals are very quiet and happy.

So, where can you buy some? It is available at present at our selective stockists in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide:

Sydney:  Sam the Butcher,  Bondi 

http://www.samthebutcher.com.au

Melbourne: Hagens Organic Butchers, Richmond & Prahan Market, Rendina’s Butchery

http://www.rendinasbutchery.com.au

http://hagensorganics.com.au

Adelaide: P&A Organic Meats

https://www.facebook.com/paorganicfoods/

 

Incredible! - Biodynamic Wagyu on the farm BBQ

Incredible! – Alice and baby Grace enjoying cooking Biodynamic Wagyu on the Stewart farm outdoor BBQ

Rural Organics welcomes award winning agriculturalists, Don and Jo Hearn to the family

At Rural Organics, we deeply value and appreciate our relationships with our amazing Organic Growers. So, it with great pleasure and excitement that we welcome award winning Organic agriculturalist’s  Jo and Don Hearn to the family.

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Returning to a family owned farm in 1993 from backpacking overseas for 2 1/2 years , Don and Jo Hearn set to work establishing a 7 Ha vineyard at Jungle Lane, Caldwell, near Barham in Southern NSW.

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Owning only 2 backpacks full of dirty clothes and 2 Turkish rugs, they used existing farm equipment and hard work, harvesting their first grape crop in 1999. Encouraged that their grapes were being made into medal winning wine, they decided to build their underground winery in 2002, and began making wine themselves. Knowing more about the drinking side of wine rather than the making side of wine, they decided that Jo should study winemaking, which has seen her grow in skill and confidence resulting in medals and high ratings by James Halliday. With the retirement of Don’s parents in 2011, Don and Jo took over the family’s 450 Ha beef operation, and have successfully converted the entire beef, grapes and wine operation into being fully certified organic through ACO.

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2015 has seen them release their first certified organic wine (a beautiful little Semillon), with the 2016 vintage being their first chance to produce their entire range of wines under their new organic wine label. 2016 will also see the launch of the new beef arm of their business, under the Jungle Lane Beef Co. brand. Following the teaming up with Rural Organics (McClure & Daughters) in 2015, Don and Jo have begun supplying butchers and outlets in Melbourne and beyond with beautiful Certified Organic, grass fed Hereford beef.

From their cellar door, visitors can have a relaxing walk around their 25 Ha wetland, book in for a local produce lunch platter, taste wines and take home some beef for dinner as well.

For more information visit their website at: www.restdown.com.au

Rural Organics launches new Organic Product Range: ‘McClure & Daughters’

Organic growth isn’t only about plants and animals, businesses grow organically too and that’s exactly what has happened here at, ‘Rural Organics.’ We are proud and happy to have expanded and evolved to creating and supplying our own brand of amazingly, delicious and nutritious, portioned organic meat.

We at Rural Organics are passionate about health and wellness, we don’t like nasty chemicals and we care about the  treatment of animals, soil and environment, which is why we are so passionate about Organics.

Many of our customers, clients, close friends and family have been loving the taste of our organic meat for years and asking us where we can get more…..  So now we can finally tell you, ‘McClure & Daughers’ Organic portioned meat is here! Alice, Janie’s middle daughter has been the driving force behind this new venture.

Alice refining her 'butcher skills' at a wonderful promotional workshop at Hagen's Organics, Prahran Markets

Alice refining her ‘butcher skills’ at a wonderful promotional workshop at Hagen’s Organics, Prahran Markets

McClure & Daughter’s portioned meat is available at boutique butchers, fruit, vegetable, grocery stores and supermarkets such as Toscano’s of Kew, Commercial Meat’s at Camberwell Markets, TOM’S South Melbourne Markets, P&A Organic Meat’s Magill Road in Kensington, Adelaide.

 

Grace.E visits Pam and Tony

Pam & Tony Fitzpatrick have been supplying bio –dynamic lambs and beef to Rural Organics for many years. So, as these pics show, we thought it was a good opportunity to introduce Janie’s youngest granddaughter, Grace Elizabeth to one of Rural Organic’s oldest producers.

Together with her mum Alice, Grace E inspected the lambs with Tony, then joined Pam to make friends with their beautiful palomino horse Elly.

Finally, it was off to the Fitzpatrick woolshed to give Grace a feel of the beautiful white fine merino bio –dynamic wool. Janie, said of the day: “I really think that Grace Elizabeth has inherited her mums love for the land.

Jackman’s growing organically and flourishing in life

Peter and Leanne Jackman have a beautiful Demeter/Bio-Dynamic certified
farm at the base of the Grampians near Dadswellbridge

They supply British breed second cross bio -dynamic lambs and Angus/Hereford
beef into the Rural Organics butcher shops in Melbourne and Sydney
Their animals are always well sort after from our shops and their customers
as their product is always of the highest quality as well as having amazing
taste

In July this year they decided to try finishing some Nelyambo Hereford/black
baldy steers from Janie McClure’s outback property.
They have “turned them” into well finished quality cattle in a short amount
of time and already plan to trade them into Rural Organic’s markets.

Outside of their farm they spend quality time with their 4 beautiful
daughers and delightful grandchildren They are also very conscientious
“time givers” to the the Dadswell and Horsham community.

Rural Organics director, Grace on the cover & inside Women’s Running Mag.. out now

Rural Organics Director and motivational speaker Grace is on the cover of this month’s Women’s Running Magazine. Grace is passionate about organics and a healthy lifestyle.

For more on Grace and her speaking, which is all about being fit, healthy and happy so you can serving others well, visit www.gracemcclure.com.au