Proposed planning changes for small-scale livestock & what it means for Victorian farmers

Turnip and the Melbourne Farmers Market’s collaboration continues and in light of the announcement of the Victorian Government’s proposed planning changes for small-scale livestock, we are turning our attention to those farmers who rear animals for food.

The changes are generally intended to reduce red tape across the animal production industry but they will inadvertently, increase the costs and regulatory hurdles for many small scale producers in the farmers market and local supply networks by redefining them as intensive farmers.

This would reduce the viability of running a sustainable/regenerative agricultural business as the farmers would be faced with the same planning demands as some industrial animal producers.

We had a chat to Amanda McClaren from Yanpuyah Chickens who also happens to be the Mayor of the Lake Nagambie Ward.

Amanda McClaren from Yapunyah Chickens

 

 1. What made you jump on board with MFM?

We have been with MFM for a number of years now. MFM professionally run farmers markets all over Melbourne and they truly care about their growers/producers. Miranda and her team are great to deal with and I believe the customers benefit from the extra efforts they put in.

2. What impact have being involved in farmers markets had on your business?

The majority of our sales are direct to the consumer via Farmers Markets. We have been selling our Yapunyah Meadow Grazed Chickens through Farmers Markets for eight years. We attend two farmers each weekend and once a month we attend three farmers markets on a weekend. The rest of our sales are through to restaurants, butchers and catering businesses.

One of the untold benefits of Farmers Markets is the benefit to the Farmers mental health. You can be working through the latest crisis on the farm and still need to get up and get to the Farmers Market to sell your produce. The smiles on customers faces, the sense of community with other traders and the unbelievable feeling of happiness when someone comes up to you to tell you that was ‘the best tasting chicken they have ever had’ – makes it all worthwhile. As a farmer you are often problem solving, working alone and putting in huge hours in all sorts of weather, so the kind words of a customer can mean so much.

3. Do you believe selling your product direct to a FM educates the broader community about where their food comes from? 

Absolutely! We are able to explain exactly how we grow our birds, what they are fed, how they are treated (Ian goes out and tucks them in at night if the weather is bad!) and what the difference is between a pasture raised bird and a traditional broiler bird. Over the years we have been able to educate countless customers into how to get three family meals from one bird and the benefits of YouTube for working our how to breakdown a chicken.

We have shared our own recipes for how to get three family meals from one bird and have had customers take it up as a challenge reporting back to us how many meals they managed to get from one bird – it has been impressive and a great conversation.

It is so important for all of us to know where our food comes from, the MFM community really appreciate talking to and supporting their growers. Each customer is individual and they are like a large extended family. If we change things up a bit and Mandy does the markets instead of Ian or if Ian doesn’t bring his Mum – questions are asked and answers sought to make sure everything is ok. It is so nice to know our customers care.

4. Do you approach your farming and production differently as your connection to MFM has grown? 

No, we have always wanted to farm regeneratively. We are in central Victoria, surrounded by National Park so we are very aware of the environment in which we live and farm.

The success of the Farmers Markets has meant we have grown the business year on year. We are happy to share our farming story with our customers and hope to continue this into the future.

This year has been a challenging one for small poultry producers, we have had changes to our processors (abattoir), changes to our feed and now proposed Planning Scheme amendments for Sustainable Agriculture – each has brought its own stress with it but on the upside it has made us take a very good hard look at our business and the motivation we have for producing our Yapunyah Meadow Grazed Chickens  – and it’s not the money – it’s the notion that we can grow chickens in a more environmentally friendly way that gives the bird a much better life. Ultimately Ian loves chickens.

Our chickens are moved through our paddocks under large cages (for their own protection as we have hawks and wedge-tailed eagles that nest on the property). They have access to fresh water and feed made at a local mill.

5. What do the proposed planning changes for small-scale livestock mean for you? 

In reality, they are quite daunting. Whilst we acknowledge planning reform is needed for the decision makers in Local Government to be able to make informed decisions. We feel in relation to the proposed Planning Amendments for Pigs and Poultry they have the numbers all wrong. If the proposed planning changes are pushed through as they are now presented we would be looking at falling in the class of (451-400,000 birds) requiring a Broiler Code Class A permit (up to 400,000 birds) at a cost of approximately $50,000 in consultancy and planning fees to our business.

Not only is this a huge expense for a small business, but the Broiler Code doesn’t really suit and address the pasture-raised poultry operations where the chickens are rotationally grazed through the property. We will be submitting a submission to the Proposed Planning Scheme Amendments for Sustainable Agriculture and will wait and see if the numbers are changed to better reflect regenerative farming techniques and measure stocking density (no. of animals/hectare) and nutrient load.

Ultimately, this is about local food and local economies, we are a small family business that produces great quality pasture-raised chicken for customers that appreciate the effort and want to know where their food comes from. Our business not only produces quality product but we also support local businesses, such as the feed mill, our local farm store, and the local hardware store amongst other businesses. Ultimately we wanted to grow our business enough to put an on farm processing facility and employ local people. We will now wait to see the outcomes of the proposed Planning reforms to see where the future lies for us.

To find out more about where the MFM stands on this issue, click here. 

To send a submission re the proposal, click here.

TO SUPPORT LOCAL PRODUCERS AND ENSURE FREE RANGE FARMING IS NOT INTENSIVE FARMING, click here

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