‘If you can look after fifty chickens’, Oliver tells me, ‘you might as well look after 500.’ In between a steady stream of customers and friends, I’m chatting to Oliver Bora at his stall. Now in his early twenties, he’s been raising chooks for three-and-a-half years, having launched the business while still a student at the Shearwater Steiner School in Mullumbimby. This was also the site of his business, but just before the floods he relocated to The Farm in Byron Bay, that initial flock of 450-odd birds have now increased to between 2000 and 2500. ‘It’s a perfect place’, he says.
When I ask Oliver if he ever feels, even faintly, that he might be missing out on the sort of travel and adventuring that most other young men his age are either doing or contemplating, he shakes his head. ‘I grew up in China’, he says, ‘and we did loads of travelling.’ His Milanese-born father worked in textiles – and so Oliver is fluent in Italian, Mandarin and English. ‘It was a tricky time to travel anyway’, he says, ‘so I thought, “knuckle down and do some work!”.’
Oliver is a shining role-model for young farmers (a rare breed, I’m often told by older ones) and indeed has two 17-year-old boys helping out after school. His latest thing is Bone Broth, also sold from his stall. Collaborating with The Coop in Byron Bay, he slow-simmers it for 18 hours with lots of aromatics, and tells me it’s a great addition to sauces, stocks and curries. It’s also a way to utilise the older chickens, the ones no longer laying, which he’s poured so much energy and so many resources into, up to the very end, so: zero waste, closing the loop, respecting both beast and environment. And it’s good for you too!
Oliver’s Hens can be found every Friday at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market from 7am–11am.