When Nathan Ackland and Megan Chalmers bought The Green Shed Bistro in Beechworth, Victoria, the gift of good food, new friends and a work-life balance came with it.

Story By Jamie Durrant

It’s late winter on a partly cloudy afternoon and heavenly beams of sunlight fan out over impossibly green pastures at Walla Walla in the New South Wales southern Riverina. Butcher and cattle grower Locky Altmeier is also beaming with a huge smile as he and Green Shed Bistro chef/owner Nathan Ackland feed out hay to around 70 head of black Angus-Shorthorn cross heifers, all of which are in stunning condition. The animals are calm, and Nathan is wide-eyed and happy as he admires his meat supplier’s cattle and forks mountains of hay from the four-wheel-drive ute like a kid in a toyshop.
A few older cows with new blue-roan super-healthy, or “sappy” calves at foot, as Locky terms them, are displaying long and shiny winter coats, and large and healthy udders. One young black Angus bull appears as leader of the pack. He too, is calm, and oblivious of just what a top frame and build he is. Locky points out a Charolais bull, now being trialled for further crossbreeding. It’s obvious that Locky has an eye and a well-researched skill for growing some of the region’s best grass-fed all-natural meat. Up to 200 head of only the best animals are processed and sold through his Albury business Countryside Meats annually – Nathan’s Green Shed Bistro is just one of his customers.
As the cattle graze, Megan Chalmers, Nathan’s wife and fellow chef, inspects the chicken coop for fresh eggs, explores the farm equipment and studies all manner of farmyard sounds with two-year-old son Flynn. With the excitement of recognition Flynn sings out, “Oink oink pig,” “Broom broom truck,” and one very confident, “Look mum: chickens!” He is utterly beside himself with this afternoon’s excursion – grinning from ear-to-ear under his grey-knit beanie.
“Our previous life was hectic,” former Melburnian Megan says. “We’d been working ridiculous hours, seven days a week. It was becoming far too much. We simply knew we had to get out of the city.” On their move to Beechworth, Vic, three years ago, Megan discovered she was pregnant with Flynn. “So almost immediately Nathan and I decided to purchase a beautifully renovated Victorian Cottage – everything just fell into place,” she says.

This story excerpt is from Issue #74

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2011