April 12th, 2023As happy as…
Words & Images: Eve Lamb
THE sky rolls wide and blue above Pig and Earth, a sustainable free-range organic pig farm set on the
volcanic plains just out of Kingston.
For owners Will Bennett and Emma Horsburgh, raising and selling fresh pork that’s been lovingly grown here allows them to lead a way of life that meshes with their ethos.
A walking tour of the 16-hectare farm quickly illustrates that the Old English Large Black breed pigs that forage here – and their cute-as-pie piglets – clearly enjoy their days.
There’s plenty of wallowing in troughs, snuffling for ground treasures, piggy pranks and luxuriating in that rich volcanic earth.
Will Bennett with one of the resident pigs at Pig and Earth. Image: Eve Lamb
“Each pig has plenty of room to roam, and spends their entire lives outdoors, with access to shelter from bad weather,” says Will (pictured above here with one of the resident pigs at Pig and Earth).
“Because they’re social animals, our pigs are generally kept in pairs or small groups, and young pigs are kept in sibling groups.”
Emma is Sydney-born, has a degree in international studies, and also works for Environment Victoria.
Will, a Victorian local, has a degree in agricultural science, studied fine art at Ballarat’s Federation University, and tries to read 52 books every year – “only succeeding twice”.
Will and Emma, who have an 18-month-old daughter, met while walking 300km across South Australia, campaigning to build Australia’s first solar thermal plant.
Since then they’ve been activists, students and workers engaged in environmental conservation and social justice. The way they farm is strongly informed by their underlying desire to minimise the carbon footprint that goes into keeping human beings fed.
“We’ll have been here for six years in June,” Will says, on the farm that also features their 1930s renovated farmhouse.
“At the moment we’re looking to grow our membership, our subscribers, a bit more.”
Pig and Earth supplies fresh free-range pork – including bacon, sausages, chops and roasts – to the local community and beyond, through a Community Supported Agriculture system.
The system aims to connect consumer and farmer more closely by offering shares into the farm’s harvest for a season or for a year.
By purchasing shares members, or subscribers, receive a percentage of the harvest weekly, fortnightly, or monthly.
There are various share options to choose from depending on your needs as an individual, couple, or group – including some lamb options as well.
“At the moment we have 50 members and we’re now aiming for 60 and, in the long term, 70,” Will says.
Will and Emma use a holistic approach to farming, incorporating permaculture, free-range and organic principles, paired with a desire to let their animals live as naturally as possible.
“It’s very satisfying, but it can be hard work and pretty full-on,” Will says. “It’s very satisfying knowing I’ve fed 50 or 60 families for the whole month.
“We work with our animals to improve the land that we are on, producing only as much as the land will provide. We’re a small farm with a big vision.
“Because pigs are not ruminants they don’t produce methane and with their feed we are diverting food waste streams from landfill so we’re minimising the carbon footprint.
“In the paddocks our pigs forage the ground as they would naturally, which helps to turn the soil and improve its nutrient content with manure.
“We believe that the best way to produce high quality meat is to be as involved in its production process as possible.
“We’re not just getting covered in mud while trying to care for a small patch of land – although we do love that. We’ve also got big ideas.”