We sat down with farmer Justin Gilbert, whose Dorrigo property, Booma Family Farm, has been in his family for five generations – over 120 years! He fills us in on what’s involved in running a family farm, and why he believes it’s so important to supply the area with quality local meat and produce.
Hi Justin. What’s your relationship to the Coffs Coast?
I was born on the Coffs Coast, and I have lived here for 31 of my 37 years. In that time I have been extremely active in sports in the area. Our business has always tried to promote were we live; we just love the area for its natural beauty and pristine environment.
How did you come to be a farmer?
As I grew up on the farm, it was a natural progression. When you experience the lifestyle on a farm (even though it can be quite challenging at times) it’s hard to imagine moving on to do anything else, and there would be nowhere else I would prefer to bring up a family.
You’re the fifth generation of your family on the farm, with 120 years of history. How has the farm changed over the years?
The property has definitely changed and is still continually changing. Over the years there have been many types of agriculture, aquaculture and horticulture on our property. With farming it is like every industry; you must continue to evolve. In recent years we have combined our farm with a meat processing facility in Dorrigo, which has meant we are able to grow, process and distribute our own meat products. This was mainly goat meat until recently; we are now able to promote all the Booma products.
How many people does it take to run Booma Family Farm?
At the moment there are only three of us – me, my father, and my nephew. However, at different times of the year we have to get outside help to maintain everything on the farm.
Meat isn’t your only produce; what are some other things you grow on the farm?
As I said earlier, our property has been involved in many different types of agriculture. By utilising the knowledge we have gained over the years, we have decided to try and put this all together and offer consumers the unique opportunity to purchase a wide variety of produce, all from the one place. At the moment we produce a range of products such as beef, lamb, pork, goat, free range eggs, as well as a large variety of vegetables. The great thing about the products we grow is that all of them work together, helping to create a sustainable farm that produces quality products.
You stand by “from paddock to plate”; how have you been able to achieve this?
We are able to stand by this as we control all stages of production. This is very unique in the agriculture industry. We have moved towards this way of farming, because many consumers are wanting to know where and how their food is produced.
We encourage school groups to come and visit our farm, as well as inviting our customers here for farm visits, so they can all come and see how our products are produced and learn why it’s important to know where your food comes from.
We try to give our animals a perfect stress-free environment for them to grow, in order to maximise productivity and quality.
We also provide a home delivery service, so we are literally taking our products from the paddock to your plate! You will still need to do the cooking though!
How important is the term “keep it local”, and what does that mean to you?
Local food is very important for us – both enjoying it ourselves and making it available for our community means a lot to us. For a long time the Coffs Coast has not been recognised as an area that produces quality products. We are trying to change this view, not just for ourselves, but for all the tourists who visit this area. Bringing in products from far away when they are available here just does not make sense to me! By buying local you are getting fresher produce, being kinder to the environment and supporting your local farming families and businesses.
Where do you see the farm heading in the future?
As our customer base grows, we are looking to expand what we grow on the farm. Some of the things we have in the pipeline are dairy products, meat chickens, a larger orchard and also having farmstays.
When you’re not out on the farm, what do you like to do with your time?
My interest has always been sports. I am very lucky to have three children who enjoy them too. So, my time away from the farm is spent coaching the local Rugby and cricket teams, or playing sport with my kids!
Where can we find out more about Booma Family Farm?
www.boomafarm.com or Booma Meats on Facebook.