On Sunday 27 November we ventured out to Goomburra, 2 hours south-west of Brisbane, to visit Randall and Juanita Breen's Echo Valley Farm. We were joined by 10 of our customers and their families and enjoyed a hot walk around the paddocks.
Randall's passion for sustainable, ethical farming was clearly evident as he shared his knowledge with us and showed us their chickens, cows and pigs. The Breens are following Joel Salatin's sustainable farming techniques, rotating animals on the land to improve the quality of the soil (watch the documentary Polyfaces to learn more about this - it's incredible).
We learnt a lot about free-range vs pastured (TIP: choose pastured!). In Queensland, free-range standards allow 10,000 chickens per hectare, and you can leave them there for a year. Randall showed us a 1 hectare space on his land - he had 600 chickens in it and moves them every few days! This ensures they always have plenty of fresh grass and bugs to eat (this would not be possible with 10,000 chickens in one space).
We also learnt that unlike most conventional farms, the Breens don't wash their eggs with a chemical solution. Eggs are porous so whatever you put on them can penetrate through the shell (chemicals can get into the eggs!). Nature provides a protective coating on eggs, called a "bloom". This protective coating seals the pores of the eggshell and stops the transfer of bacteria from the exterior to the interior of the egg. Washing eggs removes the protective coating and opens the egg's pores - so they stay fresher, and retain more nutrients if they're not washed. You learn something new every day!
After the tour we enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by Hunt & Gather Wholefoods (my hubby Trev and our friend Aime's new venture) and some slow cooked beef grown right on the farm.
Thank you Juanita and Randall for sharing your knowledge with us. We love your eggs (even more so now that we've met your beautiful, happy chickens) and love being able to support another local family business.