Georgina loves her goats and she loves her land; a little farm in Rosebank known as Three Paddocks. We chatted under dripping branches, cloud-shrouded hills in the distance, watching the youngsters reluctantly leave their shelter to graze very lush wet grass. Goats don’t like the rain much.
The scene is a world apart from how things started. When Georgina and Melissa arrived, the paddocks were part of a degraded ex-cattle property, covered in thick lantana, with just a few bristles of dry grass and little species diversity. Georgina’s first step toward improving the pasture was to use pigs to break up and remove the lantana, and in a fairly short time they had done an amazing job. But she didn’t want to farm pigs – she had some other fabulous floppy-eared characters in mind – and two years ago, on the occasion of Melissa’s birthday, she brought home their first two BoerXToggenberg goats: Bev and Tilly, allegedly as a present for Melissa.
That was just at the beginning of the current La Nina. Georgina explains, ‘Under normal conditions goats can struggle to thrive in the Northern Rivers, mostly owing to the humidity here’. So, Georgina’s goat-farming endeavour was presented with more than the usual set of challenges at the outset, which she has learned from, and adapt to, quickly. It seems to be working; her goats looked happy and healthy despite the drizzly weather.
But why has she chosen to position herself as an ‘ethical goat farmer?’. Through the catering company she runs with Melissa, Table Under a Tree, Georgina has become a passionate advocate for locally-grown produce, ‘It’s just better,’ she says; ‘It tastes better, you know there’s love that’s gone into it.’ She feels this is especially so when it comes to smaller scale locally grown animal produce, ‘because you get to know each animal’s personality; when they’re happy or sad. Farming ethically means you’ve got to respect the animal. If you ask some smart questions of the people producing your food, then you can quickly come to find the ones who are doing it well and the ones who don’t care.’
Part of choosing to be an ethical producer means that Three Paddocks will only offer goat products seasonally; three or four times per year. It’s part of managing the impacts on the soil from grazing (although goats do less damage to Australian soils than cattle), and minimising the use of chemicals for weed control.
During the Harvest Food Trail Georgina invites you to come and see what’s involved in keeping goats happy in the hinterland, and she will share tips and tricks for cooking with goat meat, which is a really scrumptious meat, and take you beyond the standard ‘goat curry’.