Great Lakes farms get real about ethical food at open day

ETHICAL: Julie Steepe.

ETHICAL: Julie Steepe.

Three women of the land are behind a push to put the Great Lakes region on the “real food” map. Julie Steepe, Sue Williams and Elena Swegen work farms in and around Bulahdelah and Bungwahl and support wholesome, humane and sustainable food production. 

REAL FOOD: Elena Swegen of Burraduc Farm, known for its free-roaming buffaloes.

REAL FOOD: Elena Swegen of Burraduc Farm, known for its free-roaming buffaloes.

The Great Lakes Food Trail introduces visitors and locals alike to the region’s pasture-raised produce and fresh seafood, connects consumers with producers and promotes ethical farming. The next event takes place on Sunday, October 1, when participating farms will open their gates to visitors. 

Steepe lived in suburban Newcastle until four years ago when she bought “Lucy Land” near Bulahdelah, naming the property after her pet sheep Lucy. Now she produces chemical-free and ethically grown wool, raises sheep with love until they are sold for meat and sells eggs from her pasture-raised chickens. 

“I farm holistically. I consider the microbes in my soil to be as important as the wonderful sheep I have on top of the soil. Each element has its own role and needs to be respected,” she explained. 

Visitors to Lucy Land will be able to meet newborn lambs, tour the sheep shed, hand feed the chickens and collect eggs. Meat and wool can be ordered online at lucyland.com.au, and Mulberry and Flax at Islington sell Steepe’s wool.

Williams moved from Newcastle to Bungwahl seven years ago and runs alpacas and chickens at the holistically managed Topi Open Range Farm. The animals live on open green pasture, drink fresh rain water, play in dust baths, eat grass and are organically fed.

“Pasture-raised animals are not only happier and healthier, they offer more health benefits to consumers,” she said. 

Elena Swegen’s free-roaming buffaloes featured in a Newcastle Herald story in January. Burraduc Farm products can now be bought at Newcastle City Farmers Market and are used at Apothecary Kitchen, Moor, Lizotte’s and Supper Lane.

Visitors to Burraduc Farm on October 1 can meet the animals, book an educational tour of the farm and learn the science behind “predator friendly farming”. Swegen is also hoping to spread the word about the importance of “real food”. 

“Real food is the opposite to commercial junk food which is industrially produced, heavily processed and altered to reduce manufacture costs and increase corporate profits. The challenges of organic farming and producing food ethically are many and varied however being able to produce food of superior quality and nutritional value is deeply satisfying.”

For more information or to book a tour go to thegreatlakesfoodtrailnsw.com.au.