Just this morning, I was reading Richard Bosman’s blog www.richardbosman.me and was struck by something he said in an article about visiting farms.
He said that no matter how hard running his business often is, when he visits a farm and leaves, he always leaves renewed with energy and purpose. I feel exactly the same way.
Running a business where you’re selling produce that isn’t broadly available, from a handful of truly sustainable farms and where you are only ever selling produce in season, which further restricts the offering, isn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done. It is challenging in the extreme, on a good day it’s questionable about whether it can be a sustainable business – it requires growth of a conscious consumer readily available to support sustainable farmers and it requires finding those producers who are few and far between and representing them. I regularly become jaded and bounce between spells of feeling motivated and times of feeling lost and exhausted with it all.
Then, I meet a great farmer and everything gets put back into perspective. This week I met a very exciting new farmer and felt renewed with belief and purpose again. It is a sight for sore eyes in this field to see animals on pasture – to sell animals foraging around on natural vegetation and to connect with farmers who are prepared to raise animals this naturally and this humanely, is a true honor.
This week, I met Barry Sergeant on his plot in Beaulieu where he raises goats, wild geese and Peking ducks in one of the most beautiful environments I’ve yet seen. I haven’t actually ever seen goats foraging like these ones.
Most typically, even free-range goat farmers pen the goats in enclosures. On Barry’s farm, the goats are wandering around eating the tops of papyrus around the dam, nibbling on tree bark, wandering about with the ducks and geese eating weeds and all the green around them, as happy and relaxed as I’ve ever seen them.
I’m excited about the quality of this milk. A goat, like a cow is a herbivore, I actually saw many of them relaxing under tress chewing cud like they are meant to. Goats that are typically raised commercially are given pellets and controlled feed and watching then chew cud is a rarity. A ruminant is designed to eat a great deal of plant matter, which gets fermented and digested in stages.
Goats, like cows, will regurgitate a clump of the greens they eat and re-chew it to further aid digestion. It also relaxes them. When I see herbivores eating vast amounts of green as they are meant to, I know that the milk is going to have higher levels of omega 3’s, CLAs and a more favorable fatty acid profile. I get silly excited. When ruminants are fed grain, it disrupts their natural ph. levels terribly, they bloat, their immune systems suffer and their stomachs become very acidic.
Barry told me a story of one of the goats who had broken into one of the sheds and eaten a bag of maize and was ill for a week!
Their foraging diet is supplemented with a feed that doesn’t contain any antibiotics or growth hormones. The lactating does producing milk have high calorific needs and need supplement feed.
Barry is in the process of developing his own line of French goat’s cheese that are washed and have natural rind. I can’t wait to bring these to you.
We’ll have some learning to do about traditional French goat’s cheese; we’ll probably have to do some tasting sessions with you to teach you about them.
I’ll organize a tasting in January when we’re all back and refreshed from leave where you can meet Barry and learn something about the cheese he is making for you.
Typically in South Africa, we mostly have only been exposed to chevre and feta when there are so many other beautiful goat’s cheeses that we can have. Barry wants to bring cheeses like crotin ,a white cheese round, goats camembert, brie and soft rind cheeses to you.
Having a range of cheese made with the milk from goats who are mostly on a natural diet, foraging on the land around them and with minimal supplementation means a superior milk and us being able to rest assured that we’re investing in a farmer who is humanely rearing goats in a respectful and happy environment.
Goats are cheeky and skippity and fun and just frisky and gorgeous. I love them. A lot.
One of them was hell bent on trying to eat my top. At every occasion, he came up and started nibbling on it much to my amusement. Barry talks a lot about the sense of humor of goats, his appreciation and understanding of them and commitment to rearing them and making great cheese from their milk, was such a delight to be around. I left with a sense of purpose once again, reminded that these are the farmers and artisans I want to support in my life’s work.
This is where the real food is. Around the care and attention of farmers and food craftsmen like Barry.
They are the guys who are growing and making the real food that we need.
These are the farmers who can re-connect us to the earth. A real farmer is always connected to their land and always has a story and philosophy that makes sense of life.
Farmers, who are only in it for the money or as a business, don’t have that; you feel it and leave feeling like something is wrong. That has actually only happened to me once on this journey where I’ve left a farm and have no story to tell because the farmer doesn’t have a passionate philosophy about life and the place of farming in it.
For the most, I get exposed to the best people, dedicated to doing their bit to bring us beautiful food.
I’m very, very excited about Barry and the French cheeses made with the milk from pastured goats milk that he is going to delight Jozi with next year.
I’m also excited about the Peking ducks and geese that he will have for our Christmas tables.
I’ve been battling with what I’m going to put on our Christmas table this year. Last year we did large chickens, as I can’t find free range, sustainably reared turkeys anywhere.
Finding Barry has changed that.
He has Peking ducks that are living off the land, literally foraging in the mud pools around this dam as ducks like to do for snails and worms and insects as well. They are given crushed maize to supplement what they can’t get off the land.
Geese are natural grazers and grass eaters, nothing else are given to them, they are literally just living off the land around the central dam on Barry’s plot.
I’m overjoyed that Barry has resolved my Christmas dilemma.
I’m going to be cooking a goose for our Christmas table and some Peking ducks.
In England, cooking geese for the Christmas table is quite common. It’s generally more expensive there than turkey but makes for a great alternative, is less dry and the goose fat makes for the best roast potatoes.
This is bird that has lived the most natural life living off wild forage.
The ducks are all totally free range too, living around the damn, they forage in the mud and grasses for insects as unlike geese they eat snails, insects and slugs and he does give them crushed maize too to ensure that they are getting enough nutrition.
So the sustainable Christmas meal for me this year is going to be ducks and a roast goose.
The geese will weigh on average between 4.5 and 5kg’s. I’ll probably add 2 or 3 ducks and it’ll be the first time actually that we’re doing goose and duck for Christmas.
I’m not going to buy these upfront – we will rather let you order them.
I will put them up on the store but please note that there is a week’s turn around time on the order. They will be slaughtered on the farm as per your order once a week, hopefully on the Wednesday.
Whenever you order, we’ll send it to you the following week or have it ready for collection.
The ducks weight will on average around 1.5 – 2kg and are priced at R 165.00 each and the geese are on average 4.5 – 5kg and are R 250.00 each.
I’ll put it up on the site under ‘Christmas Special’ you can place an order and then we will contact you with the date they will be ready.