It’s not often you see a queue down the street that leads to a butcher shop but it was that very sight at a store in Canberra that grabbed Vince Heffernan’s attention.
That shop sold biodynamic meat and the sixth generation farmer was intrigued. He armed himself with a degree in Ecological Agriculture and set out to learn how to manage the entire landscape in a holistic way. The result is Moorlands Biodynamic Lamb based in Dalton in the Southern Tablelands of NSW.
Vince Heffernan firmly believes farming is much more than the product sold; he sees himself and his lambs as sitting within an ecosystem that needs to be healthy for animals, and in turn people, to thrive.
The practice of biodynamics was conceived almost a century ago by a European man by the name of Rudolph Steiner, best known for his systems of education.
From the soil up
“It was something so foreign to me in this country,” recalls Vince. “I thought, what is it that’s so special? You’re highly sceptical of some of the biodynamic stuff when your first hear about it. It does sound crazy!” he laughs. “I had to know more. I had to know more about what was happening.”
Vince describes the practice as a ‘soil-up approach’. In essence, get the basics right and the landscape will come to life, becoming more resilient in the face of droughts, floods and pests.
“I think farmers, because they’re out living on the land, are very aware of what’s occurring around them.” He says everything he does has an ecological approach.
“When people look at these types of things, I think they think there’s a silver bullet which sort of suggests everything is encapsulated in one solution.”
This is not a move away from farming. I’m absolutely a farmer, producing wool, skins, meat. It’s being able to do both.”
Vince says sourcing the information to make changes wasn’t easy. A gradual process of prepping the soil, planting native shrubs, grazing his sheep in big mobs in short duration and giving them long rest periods have all added to an enhanced ecosystem.
“That then flows on to try to make the rivers and creeks healthier.”
Vince has noticed better fish stocks and bird life. “Ultimately, it all adds up to a healthy landscape. You want your sheep raised in a healthy landscape. You want to live in a healthy landscape too.”
“This is not a move away from farming. I’m absolutely a farmer, producing wool, skins, meat. It’s being able to do both.”
I’m producing a meal for a family and if it’s not good enough, they won’t come back and buy it off me again.”
As a result, Vince’s sheep have access to a smorgasbord of native flora to graze. He rears Texel sheep, a breed originating from the Netherlands. He chose them specifically for their calm temperament.
“That shows mainly through their maternal DNA. They’re really good mothers. They stick by their lambs. They’re protective. They don’t get too fazed by dogs or people, or fences either. They’re great animals to work with.” Being in a business that’s food oriented, Vince says they are also an exceptional meat.
The quality of the meat is key and that’s shown through the awards that we’ve won.”
“I’m producing a meal for a family and if it’s not good enough, they won’t come back and buy it off me again.”
Vince describes Texel meat as having a “gorgeous silky texture”. He says, “The meat has a beautiful flavour that’s enhanced by the diet of the animals. It also extends to the fat. I hear people describe the fat as sweet or nutty, even cashew-like, because it’s rich.”
Vince is focussed on exceptional animal welfare outcomes through studying stress-free handling techniques which have earned him long-term partnerships with hatted restaurants, like ‘Fred’s’ in Paddington Sydney.
“My lamb is able to really star there because it is allowed to stand-out.” Vince also sells to boutique Sydney butcher Feather and Bone. Importantly, he also encourages ‘nose to tail’ eating by servicing some customers in Sydney and Canberra directly.
“That lamb has to be exceptional for them to want to come back because it’s not super convenient. I’m principally a farmer and I’m squeezing those selling opportunities into small cracks in my life.”
“The quality of the meat is key and that’s shown through the awards that we’ve won.”
Award winning lamb
Moorlands Biodynamic Lamb has won Delicious Magazine Produce Awards through blind taste testing over the past four years he’s entered.
Vince is passionate about education and loves the idea of an open door policy for people to wander through any time. Unfortunately, biosecurity restrictions don’t allow that at the moment but he welcomes visitors onto his property on dedicated field days.
Vince encourages people to keep an open mind about doing things a little differently. His ultimate goal is to have more people spend time on his farm and enjoy its natural beauty. He’s working on ways to make that happen – so stay tuned!