What a breath of fresh air to meet Kerry Dean from Saddle Mountain Homestead! We met Kerry for a chat over breakfast at the Organic Pantry, in Townsville, who stock Kerry’s Saddle Mountain Homestead pastured, free range eggs!
Kerry runs 2500 hens, 50 ducks and a small herd of cattle and goats on her property at Hervey Range west of Townsville in North Queensland. Kerry’s poultry is pastured which means they have fulltime access to grass and are outdoors all the time. They are protected from predators by dingo proof fencing and three Maremma guard dogs. Kerry started into chickens when she was doing some research for her father for his cattle business down south. She came across the pastured chicken concept and thought it would be ideal to try at Hervey Range.
When Kerry’s not busy feeding, watering, fencing, collecting or sorting eggs she’ll be out around Townsville doing deliveries or meeting a delivery van who takes her eggs further afield. Kerry sells her eggs to restaurants, cafes and organic stores across North Queensland and has started to sell into work places where colleagues are grouping together to put in a minimum regular order. The business is a full-time job for Kerry who has two young children, Matilda and Billy.
Being a pastured egg producer is not without challenges. Having pastured, free range chickens is a labour intensive method of farming. As Kerry said becoming a farmer has meant a constant learning curve, animals are always throwing challenges at you, whether that be a sick cow or predators harassing the chickens, Kerry takes it in her stride, does the research, consults the right people and gets on with things.
Egg production is particularly challenging with getting timing right and aiming for a constant and consistent supply. Contrary to popular belief chickens do not lay eggs every day all year round, so egg producers must keep more chickens than the number of eggs they are aiming to sell. With the fluctuation there are often excess numbers of eggs and at other time shortages, this makes competing with the bigger suppliers challenging.
Kerry sells her eggs with a point of difference though as she puts it her hens are ‘pastured, free range, with a low stock density, well cared for and the eggs are delicious, once people try them they keep buying!’
Saddle Mountain is starting farm tours for locals and tourists in 2018. Kerry loves to share the story of how food is grown and is very passionate about connecting consumers more closely to their food and giving them an insight into the challenges in farming, what’s involved and why things are done in certain ways. When asked her favourite recipe using Saddle Mountain Homestead produce, Kerry’s says ‘poached eggs, so much easier when your eggs are as fresh as mine!’