Happy Valley Free Range has won the 2014 Farmer of the Year Award!
Joanne Stritch never dreamed of being a farmer, but her passion to deliver to the public pork that was raised in a natural caring environment lead her to create the Happy Valley Free Range farm. This passion has paid off with her being named Livestock Producer of the Year for Farmer of the Year 2014. Located in the Yarra Valley in Victoria, Happy Valley is proud about its open farming methods.
Happy Valley has been a certified Humane Choice farm for almost 3 years, and Joanne says it was important for her to be part of such a valued accreditation scheme. “Being certified with such a high level true free range certifier says to my customers that we are very serious about raising our pigs properly on pasture, “ Joanne says, “I love to spoil the sows with their piglets and make sure they are well fed, watered, warm and dry.”
At the moment, Happy Valley farm has 21 sows. Joanne is very careful about how she manages her pasture, and encourages and invites visitors to come and see their pigs. “We’ve had a lot of visitors to see the pigs and took part in the Yarra Valley Food & Wine Festival, with sold out pig tours on both days. People just love coming to see the pigs in the paddocks, playing and grazing as they do.”
Regular paddock rotations occur, and long spelling of paddocks has ensured the grass cover at the farm has stayed at optimum levels. The breeding program ensures the wellbeing of sows and piglets at all stages of the process. “Our breeding program is very natural. The boar and sows all live together in one paddock and the sow is moved to her own private paddock within two weeks of her farrowing date. She lives in her own paddock until the piglets are six to eight weeks old.”
Happy Valley Free Range is an innovative small producer and the pigs are predominantly sold at Farmers Markets within Victoria. They have become a part of the Yarra Valley community, and are open and honest about their farming methods, something that has become a rarity in the pork industry.
Joanne is keen on bringing people back to pork, and now has regular customers who have only begun eating pork again after having seen the Happy Valley farm and how they raise their pigs.
Happy Valley Free Range is a small, but special farm with their social media such as facebook growing every week. Joanne is also distributing a weekly newsletter with information on farmers markets, recipes and news of life on the farm. “I don’t want to have a big production, I like that I am the main human interaction with the pigs, that we are like one big family and every sow gets a big belly scratch,” Joanne says.
As the winner of one of the Farmer of the Year Awards, Happy Valley Free Range has come a long way for small producers, and is helping to ensure that the best free range practices continue to become a big part of the industry.
There has been a lot of interest in Humane Choice certification recently, and if you think your farm could be a part of our accreditation scheme head to the Humane Choice website to see our standards: www.humanechoice.com.au