Hayden and Jasmin Findlay knew they had to think outside the square to make the small family farm at Moriac a financially viable business.
They had been running cattle on the 36-hectare farm leased from Mr Findlay’s parents.
In 2009, Mr Findlay quit his job at a seed company and they embarked on the huge task of redeveloping the Ravens Creek Farm.
Through hard work, research, and trial and error, it is now a vibrant, highly productive, biodiverse farm, based on regeneration and integration.
At the Ravens Creek Farm farm shop and cafe, people can sample the produce: from old-breed, free-range pork and small goods; grass-fed beef and lamb (run on leased land nearby); free-range eggs; fruit and vegetables; to honey and preserves.
They also supply local providores and restaurants from Anglesea to the Bellarine Peninsula.
The Findlays first planted berries to entice people – both Surf Coast visitors and locals – to visit the farm, particularly during the region’s peak summer period.
“After they picked berries, they could then have a coffee or something to eat and make and outing of it. It really evolved from there,” Mr Findlay said.
He said they were inspired by farm shops in England.
Their long-term lease meant the young couple could investment in long-term plantings and infrastructure, which were vital to the development of the business.
“With our farm shop, we thought ‘build it and they will come’.
“Although it’s been a tough couple of years for word of mouth to spread and let people know we’re here,” he said.
The cafe has been open for three years and this was the first winter it stayed open.
The Findlays also host school groups and are working to have a self-guided farm tour to help educate visitors and add to their experience.
Key to their approach is building up the soil biology and improving its structure, so it retains water and cycles nutrients better.
They have improved pastures by having cover crops, green manure crops and rotations.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve got nine acres, 900 or 9000; you need to start thinking this way because the cost of inputs is going up and we’re depleting our soil or organic matter,” Mr Findlay said.
They’ve learnt ways to do this by reading and listening to people such as Allan Savory and Joel Salatin on holistic management; Greg Judy on grazing management; and Gabe Brown on no till cropping and integrating livestock. He said a Bachelor of Agricultural Business management at Marcus Oldham helped him analyse enterprises.
“With farming, while you love it, you’ve still got to be able to afford a house, put children through school and things like that.
“And while we’ve been building our business, we’re now starting to get runs on the board.”
He said it was vital to be be able to work through ideas and know they will work – even if they take time.
While on a study tour of New Zealand with Marcus Oldham, Mr Findlay saw technology that has made moving livestock possible, Kiwitech fencing.
They use the portable electric fencing to move chooks and pigs on the home farm.
“We’ve always got a wire behind things, so the animals can’t back-graze which gives plants recovery time,” he said, adding it had seen preferred pasture species including rye grasses, cocksfoot, phalaris and clovers bounce back, where onion grass and cape weed had prevailed when it was set-stocked with cattle.
Pigs and chooks also add nutrients with their manure.
Ultimately, the young couple want to refine their farming operations and build up their now established commodities, so they run enough of the animals to get economies of scale without depleting the soil and other resources.
They also have plans to extend the farm shop and buy part of the farm.
Balance in their lives is also important, including with 2.5-year-old daughter Pippa.
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