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November 30, 2022

Misty Creek agroforestry

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Nicole Fredman and Tom Bjorksten from Misty Creek near Eltham allow their chickens to roam in the forest. The chickens love it, just don’t look up.

Victoria Cosford

As a fourth-generation cattle farmer, Tom saw how much his parents struggled against nature out in the Central West where he grew up. So, when he and his partner Nicole acquired their 28 acres of farmland near Eltham (‘it was just a cow paddock’, Tom tells me), he was determined to work with nature.

The results of which are the glorious chickens they sell at the farmers’ market. They live and roam in the forest and their fertiliser enriches the soil.  ‘It’s agroforestry’, Tom says, ‘it’s using the dynamics of how forests grow without bringing fertilisers in. We had an opportunity to start with the chickens; they’re happy to be in the trees and the shade and it meant we could use their fertiliser. We started there, and the chickens were really good.’ 

So good that the whole chickens, head and all, sell really well – but so do all the other parts.  ‘The chicken livers sell out straight away’, Tom tells me. ‘They’re superfoods, containing the highest amount of all trace minerals, like copper and iron.’ The necks and feet are wonderful for stocks, thickening and enriching, but also, says, Tom, the neck tastes good. ‘It’s a dark meat, like the drumstick.’

Market-goers will also have noticed cockerel for sale at the stall. As they’re heritage and seasonal, Tom says they won’t always be available, but these males of the laying chicken (‘typically chucked in the mincer’), are incredibly flavoursome; big legs and not much breast, should be braised long and slow. ‘They’re comparable to lamb shanks’, he says.’ They’re a lot more expensive because they take three times as long to grow. Most of the cost is in the labour, moving them around, planting trees etc. But they are a beautiful and unique product.’

Misty Creek can be found at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market every Friday from 7–11am.


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