From inner city Brisbane professionals to pig farmers in countryside Lebrina, Daniel and Kim Croker are happier than pigs in mud.
In late 2016 Daniel and Kim Croker said “fork it” to their hectic Brisbane lives and moved to the Pipers Brook wine region in Tasmania’s East Tamar Valley, where they now raise heritage Berkshire pigs across open pastures at Fork It Farm.
Daniel Croker, a talented scientist with a PhD in molecular biomedical science was 20 years into his career as a research academic at the University of Queensland. His wife Kim was an ag-science graduate and Gold Coast City Council employee, when both felt an equal desire for a change of direction.
“We had often said that if we won the lottery, we’d buy a little farm,” smiles Daniel. “Then we thought why wait? Let’s just do it. We’re not enjoying our jobs. Let’s just dive in. When we found some land in the quiet rural community of Lebrina, we knew straight away this was it. It’s nearly 25 hectares in northern Tasmania with a dam, a bore, the Pipers Brook running through it, some native bush and a house. It’s beautiful.”
So why pig farming? The Crokers had no agricultural background apart from Kim growing up on a small hobby farm with horses. But they had a shared passion for creating change especially knowing that industrial pig farming has a less than desirable animal welfare history. They also found it very hard to find free range pork in Brisbane. Berkshire pigs are known for their friendliness and good mothering, so the Crokers determined they were a suitable breed for novice farmers.
The couple then busily set about preparing the Lebrina land for their free ranging mates, erecting fencing and shade stations across the generous paddocks. In 2019 they built a state-of-the-art food processing shed where they prepare value-added products including artisan pastrami, farm-style bacon, pancetta and bresaola prepared with local ingredients using traditional techniques. Called The Meatshed, it houses a commercial kitchen, curing room, butchery and farm shop so that visitors can purchase products directly.
“We love having people come to visit us along the Tamar Valley wine route where we can show them our ethical farming practices, they can meet the animals and see what we do,” says Daniel. “We are also fortunate that our pork is in high demand in restaurants across Tasmania – we literally cannot keep up with supply.”
The busy pair also take their pasture-raised Berkshire pork and charcuterie on the road and they are regulars at Launceston’s Harvest Market and Hobart’s Farmgate Market. Although the 3am start on Hobart market day can be a grind, the exposure they have gained at the market has proven to be a powerful avenue to connect with new Fork It Farm enthusiasts. It is a great way to share their farm story and gain valuable direct-market feedback.
“We currently have 70 pigs on the farm, along with sheep, cattle, ducks, geese, chooks and quail,” says Kim. “We want to keep things small scale because we believe that low food miles and sustainable, ethical farming is good for the animals as well as for consumers, farmers and the wider community.”
With Rodney Dunn at the famed Agrarian Kitchen sourcing whole Berkshires from Fork It Farm and nearby Clover Hill Vineyard sourcing cured meat and charcuterie products for their menu, the local appetite is strong for goods from this patch of piggy paradise.
“Piggy paradise equals plenty of space and lots of good food. We feed the pigs apples, milk and grain. They love to dig up worms and wallow in the mud of course,” laughs Kim. “Our pigs even get massages. Daniel has no hair left on his legs because they love rubbing up against him so much. Perhaps we should open a beauty salon!”
It turns out you can tell if pigs are genuinely happy. If they are discontent, their tail will go straight. If they are extra happy, they will literally wag their tails like a puppy dog. As the Crokers sit on their deck overlooking their Berkshire-dotted pastures, far away from big city office life, one can imagine their own tails wagging. For now, we’ll have to rely on those beaming country smiles for confirmation they have made the right move.
Find out more about ForkIt Farm.
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