Every morning when Cape Grim farmer Matthew Lester wakes up, he is reminded of his family’s farming legacy. Matthew, his wife Susan and boys Harrison (age 12), Max (10) and Flynn (7) live in the original homestead his grandfather built in the 1930s. Matthew is a fourth generation farmer, and it’s always been cattle. His grandfather was a pioneer in the region, running some 21 dairy farms before the 1970s dairy slump forced them to change their focus. Since then they’ve managed beef cattle, and look after around 2,000 cattle during peak season.
Matthew runs two properties, and from the highest point of these locations, the view is spectacular, taking in the Sisters Hills and the natural rainforest of the Tarkine. Being amongst this splendor is something Matthew cherishes.
“I love breathing the cleanest air in the world. As farmers I reckon we are the best greenies around. We look out for our land and our cattle like we do our own children!” says Matthew.
If you take a look in the fridge of farmer Andrew Kay, you’ll find prime Cape Grim Beef, crayfish, abalone and chocolate. Sounds like a menu fit for a royal feast, but it really comes down to the beautiful produce he’s able to access in his own backyard. Plus a bit of bartering.
When he’s not farming his 1,000-odd cattle for Cape Grim Beef, he straps on his scuba gear and plunges into the icy Southern Ocean off the west coast of Tassie to spy parrot fish, trumpeters, stingrays and the type of sharks that, thankfully, don’t bite. It’s there he dives for crays, and his wife Alana, daughter Charli (9 years old) and son Jack (7) enjoy a regular crayfish feast. They’re a valuable commodity, and Andrew uses them to barter for dessert – chocolate from his brother-in-law who runs a premium chocolate company. “We do live well!” Andrew concedes.
Most of the time though, Andrew’s head is firmly above water, busy running two farming properties in Cape Grim country. It’s been his life since he left school and he’s now 37 years old. He follows in the footsteps of three generations of farmers before him. His great grandfather started out as a butcher, loading his horse and cart to supply meat to the residents of the Circular Head area of northern Tassie, a community in which the extended family still lives and works. Andrew’s young son Jack particularly embraces the rural life – cattle, tractors and motorbikes are all he talks about. Andrew is crossing his fingers that in Jack there’ll be a fifth generation Kay to take the reigns sometime, and value the lifestyle and specialness of their surrounds.
John Bruce runs a 580-hectare property north of the quaint township of Stanley in Tasmania. Like so many people on the land in this region, farming is hereditary. John’s great grandfather was an apple orchardist, and since then the family has farmed cattle, sheep and crops, deciding to specialise in just cattle in the mid 1980s. During this time John’s dad was instrumental in harnessing a collective of farmers to improve their ways of working, which went a long way to establishing the stellar reputation the region now has for exquisite beef.
John’s first taste of farming life was as a jackeroo during his late teens on a large property in Tassie. For two years he ran sheep and cattle as well as crops, before joining the family farm, where he’s now been for almost four decades. The gene has clearly been passed down the line, with daughter Emma a vet in country Victoria, and son Iain an agronomist managing pastures and crops for cattle and sheep. There’s a hay bale being kept warm for when Iain heads back home, to ultimately take over the business.
Careful to respect the land from which he earns his living, John has set aside a 60 hectare reserve on his property just for wildlife, which is home to wallabies, echidnas, Tasmanian devils, penguins and other nesting seabirds. Like most farmers, surplus pasture that grows in abundance during Spring is also converted into silage and hay, in an effort to be as self sufficient as possible.
John is elated that people from all over Australia can now access Cape Grim Beef through Aussie Farmers Direct.
“It is fantastic to see someone providing an alternative to the two major supermarkets and the control they have over customers’ buying habits,” said John.“They have taken away the respect for food, and people are hoodwinked into buying solely on price and not on quality. They think good is cheap, which is an appalling mindset when it comes to food. Why would you put something in your mouth if you don’t know where it comes from?!”
John’s tip for cooking the perfect steak? “Get Neil Perry to do it!” he joked. The globally recognised Australian chef has a great love of Cape Grim Beef; you’ll find it on the menu at his Rockpool restaurants. You can see just how Neil does it, as well as watch our interview with John filmed on his breathtaking property, on the Aussie Farmers Direct YouTube channel.
Order Exceptional Aussie Beef in your Aussie Farmers Direct Meat & Seafood Delivery: AussieFarmers.com.au