by ALEXANDRA LASKIE | October 5, 2017
SEVEN years ago Belinda Hagan and husband Jason were farming free-range pigs with five sows and one Berkshire boar to their name.
Now, the Tooborac couple easily lose count of the number of pigs on their 220ha property, with 150 sows and a total headcount that fluctuates between 1200 and 1300 pigs. The numbers alone tell a story of success and of the rapid growth of their business McIvor Farm Foods.
But the most important evolution since throwing in the towel at their full-time jobs at corporate farms and committing to running their own business has been a shifting of the goalposts, from a focus squarely on pigs to soil.
“We’ve become soil farmers, using the pigs to help us manage the land,” Belinda said.
The animal nutritionist said the pigs were the perfect tool to regenerate what were once overgrazed pastures, owing to more than 100 years of cattle and sheep grazing.
Managed properly, the pigs churn, root and fertilise the soil, stimulating the nutrients.
“We get so excited by what we’re seeing and how we’re improving the land, It just makes us tick,” Belinda said.
“The pigs are a tool to do that and they give us the ability to have cash flow. It’s a weekly operation and it gives us a byproduct to sell.”
The mother of two said the couple had never been motivated by money.
“We’re driven by financial security, and hope to get to the point in five years’ time to have a three-month break. But the environment is our long-term investment,” she said.
“If we can leave the land in a better condition for our kids and grandkids, I suppose that’s our legacy.”