At her business Fernleigh Farms, in central Victoria, Fiona Chambers is saving endangered domesticated animals from extinction using organic farming techniques.
Story By Susan Gough Henly
Fiona Chambers’ Fridays go something like this. First thing in the morning she might go for a walk in the forest to shoot foxes; then she’ll check emails and return phone calls from all over the world about pigs, sheep and rare breeds. Afterwards, there’ll be a staff briefing about who is feeding which animals and which ones will be going to the abattoir. Somewhere in there, she’ll grab breakfast before serving a dozen or so customers in the farm shop. In between she’ll be moving animals between paddocks, checking on their wellbeing and planning pig-handling workshops.
Early afternoon she’ll drive to the butcher in Ballarat to pick up her packaged meat. Until late in the evening, she’ll weigh, label and price each item and load everything into the van before getting up at 4am to begin a long Saturday selling her organic pork, lamb and vegetables, and talking to consumers at farmers’ markets around the state.
“It’s hard work so you’ve got to be committed,” Fiona says in her small Fernleigh Farms office with its neat rows of colour-coded files. “I want to make a difference and want consumers to understand the power they have to change how food is produced. Food has become a faceless commodity. How you decide about what food you buy determines how animals live.”
The 44-year-old – dressed in jeans, well-worn work boots and linen shirt – believes that as a farmer she can be a broker for change. She grew up in Melbourne but has lived in the country since attending Victoria’s Dookie Agricultural College. “I feel like I’ve always had dirt in my veins,” she says.
This story excerpt is from Issue #69
Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2010