By Sophie Hansen.
(As featured in The Country Web: Our Farmers – Our Future, Number 56 Autumn 2012)
I’ve been living on our farm for six years now but imagine it might take about 60 more before I’d classify as a true country woman. For starters I’m a terrible shopper and am always running out of groceries. Both my thumbs are black and I’m capable of killing the sturdiest of plants. Plus I’m always getting bogged or almost running out of petrol.
None of that matters (much) though. I love this country life.
My husband and I have a farm about 20 minutes from Orange, we raise deer using a rotational grazing system and then sell our venison under our own brand Mandagery Creek Venison, through a wholesaler and farmers markets across NSW. Tim works incredibly hard and I help as much as possible. We have two children Alice (4) and Thomas (2) and I also write a blog, Local is Lovely.
My background is in writing about food and the people who grow and cook it and for years I wrote glowing stories about people living ‘the dream’. From experience, I can now say that it’s not all milk and honey. Running an agribusiness is hard. Sometimes I can’t believe how hard it is! From managing cash flow to managing the farm, worrying about the weather and so on. And while the farmers markets are a wonderful income source and marketing tool, the travel, and time commitments can sometimes seem heavy.
None of those challenges are insurmountable though. And the lifestyle our farm and business allow us make up for (most) of them!
Because it’s our business and ours alone, we can shape our work commitments around family; we can pick the kids up from pre-school but then work late at night. We can eat most meals as a family and now the kids are getting older we can involve them in some jobs on the farm.
Since starting my blog, I have met many more producers in our region and had the chance to sit down and chat with them about the challenges they face. And the same one keeps on coming up! Cash flow, cash flow, cash flow! Not that I’d ever wish difficulty on anyone, but it is nice to have a community of friends who deal with the same problems and don’t mind sharing thoughts on and solutions to them.
Having grown up in Sydney I experienced community through my family and our neighbours but here it’s an entirely different concept. I see people happy to drop everything to help us if the tractor is bogged, or just to have a whinge about the strong dollar or check fences for us if we are away for farmers markets and a storm has whipped through the place.
Maybe it’s this sense of community duty and spirit that makes a true country woman (or man) – not just how well stocked the chest freezer is!
RWN: If you haven’t already had a look at Sophie’s Blog – it is a must and I can assure you that you will not be disappointed! What you will be, is inspired and delighted by the wonderful and inspiring recipies and the amazing photography. In the meantime here’s one of Sophie’s recipes for you try …
Seared venison carpaccio with pickled cherries, horseradish cream & thyme
This is an ideal recipe for an easy dinner at home or a picnic. It looks and tastes beautiful and comes together very quickly. Please do try it one day, this is the kind of recipe that lets venison really shine and makes the most of the meat’s beautiful tender texture and subtle flavour. If making for a picnic, have everything ready to then sear the meat and assemble just before heading out. We are going to pack a couple of baguettes too and make up carpaccio ‘sandwiches’ with a little rocket salad on the side. Fancy!
Ingredients (Serves 4)
400 g Mandagery Creek Venison leg piece*
1 tbsp juniper berries
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp sea salt
2 tbsp horseradish cream
1/3 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup pickled cherries (you could also use thinly sliced fresh figs or even fresh cherries)
½ cup shaved pecorino or parmesan cheese
Thyme (to serve)
1. Crush the juniper, black peppercorns and sea salt together in a mortar and pestle. Rub the spices over the meat and set aside for a moment.
2. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add meat and brown for a minute on each side. Let rest under a tent of foil.
3. Mix the horsedradish cream and creme fraiche together with a squeeze of lemon to taste.
4. Slice the meat thinly and place on a serving plate. Top with the cherries, shaved pecorino, creme fraiche mix and thyme.
*I cut one of our 1 kg leg pieces in half across the grain for this. The other half I sliced into steaks, wrapped each one in plastic and stashed them in the freezer for a dinner next week.