Introducing Allen and Lizette Snaith, from Clonbinane in Victoria. Their story in number 42 in my quest to feature a farmer a week for 52 weeks. My way of celebrating the Australian Year of the Farmer.
Summary of our family and farming business
We have four children, 32 – 18 years, and one grandchild. Our business has evolved over the past 32 years into a small but unique, paddock to plate business breeding 100% grass fed Belted Galloways. We run approximately 400 belties in total. Our steers are 2½ to 3 years old when they are slaughtered for their meat, we then dry age on the bone for a minimum of 3 weeks. We currently process 14 carcasses a month to a few restaurants and numerous Farmers’ Markets within 130km of our home in Clonbinane, Victoria.
Initially, it was not our intention to make a living from the cattle, and it has only been in the last 6 years that this has changed. It is now our only income.
A significant influence on our business was a trip to Italy to attend the Terra Madre in 2006 and it was there that we got excited about producing our own beef smallgoods. Some of the products we produce may not be traditionally made from beef, but they help to keep us sustainable and to clear the whole carcass, they are also loved by our customers. By value adding we are minimising our waste and getting a better income from a secondary cut.
This year we have started to sell pet meat as well as the odd delivery of cow poo to Melbourne Café & Restaurant gardens! We also have the hides tanned and sell them as floor rugs. We are hands on, which means we are involved physically, with every process from conception, to weaning, to growing, to transporting to abattoir, to cutting, slicing, packing and labelling our beef ready for retail or wholesale customers.
Essentially Allen and myself run the business, with the assistance of a butcher, several family members and the occasional neighbour behind the trestle table at Farmers’ Markets. Allen works out the production side and I am responsible for the paperwork side of our business, as well as the social media and web site upkeep. We are growing slowly and steadily which is sympathetic to the way our cattle grow, and enables us to keep up with the emerging popularity of our beef.
For you, what is the best lifestyle factor that you enjoy as a farmer?
The views & fresh air……it would have to be that we live in a rural area – our four kids have grown up in a pretty safe environment and were able to do those things that we did as children. Like yabbying, hunting for frogs and tadpoles, building a cubby, camping down at the creek with a camp fire, playing spotlight tiggy in a 30 acre paddock, being able to ride their horses in the local area without having a phone with them.
We have a strong connection with the local CFA & sporting clubs, so community is a part of our lives. We never go ‘into town’ without meeting someone we know.
What do you foresee as your biggest short term and long term challenges in farming?
Short term: Keeping up our enthusiasm and energy, so we can continue to produce our beef. It’s a very time consuming process that we have to go through each week to get the meat ready for the Farmers Market, so keeping the momentem going, can be difficult sometimes.
Long term: Lack of available farming land within a reasonable distance from Melbourne. The ‘development’ of the Hume Coridor is gobbling up fabulous agricultural land. It’s what has happened out in the Eastern Suburbs and it forces farmers out.
Financially, what worries me the most is the cost of refrigeration and power, we are looking at ways to use solar energy as much as possible.
What do you wish non-farmers and the Australian Government understood about farming? What message would you like to put on a billboard in Collins Street?
Hard to put it into just a few words. There are many things:
We don’t take water for granted, and use only what we can collect.
We shouldn’t have to compete with overseas and imported products that we farm here already, in an efficent and environmentally friendly fashion. We should put a levy on importations that compete with our ‘home grown’ product.
Buy from a local Farmers’ Market to support those that produce food for you, or search out local producers and buy direct from them.