Based just off Ninety Mile Beach, near Woodside Beach, Ninety Mile Biodynamics is a 200 hectare farm where supplier and friend of the hub, Steve, raises lambs using biodynamic farming methods.
Steve has a flock of Wiltipoll cross, which are being bred back to pure shedding sheep. They graze on a mixture of native and improved pasture on slightly saline land, giving the lamb a unique, sweet taste.
The entire farm is certified as biodynamic — this means it has dynamic soil, which is an advanced organic method, using no outside inputs, and encouraging healthy soils. The biodynamic approach treats animals, crops, and soil as a single system, with an emphasis on local production and distribution systems.
How long have you been supplying the hub and what did you do before farming?
We've been supplying the hub for around five years. We've also been taking the lamb cuts to farmers markets in Melbourne since 2013.
What does a day on your farm look like?
Depending on time of year. Autumn and Spring involve spraying the Biodynamic spray '500' on all the pastures. Normally checking ewes and lambs are ok, some fencing, hoeing or slashing some thistles I have and checking water.
What are you doing when you're not busy on the farm?
I enjoy riding my motorcycles when I can and seeing the family and grandchildren and attending five farmers markets a month.
Why is local, fresh, organic food important to you?
I think it is important that people can have a choice as to what food they can buy for themselves and their families. The fact that Gippslanders can buy Gippsland produce, means that it will be as fresh as possible and does not have to travel far or be stored for a long period before it is consumed.
What have been some positive experiences dealing with the food hub?
The friendly people, the support to continue growing the lamb, the ability to use the cool room and shed and the increased demand each year for my produce.
What do you love about where you farm?
There is a good local community. The coastal plains are temperate and good for livestock. The benefits near the coast are the availability of some salt tolerant plants that give the lamb a unique sweet taste, not quite as strong as saltbush. Soil types are good as long as there is some rainfall. The 98% chance of a cool sea breeze after a hot day!
Can you tell us about any innovative ecological practices you have successfully implemented on your farm?
Only the fact that being Certified Biodynamic for eight years and chemical free for 13 years, has meant the soil contains a lot more organic matter, microbes and worms than it did. This has attracted more birds etc along with tree plantings over the last 30 years.
Photos supplied from Ninety Mile Biodynamics website, with image credits to Zoe Phillips