Fred McGrath Weber’s passion for regenerative and holistic agriculture led him to be a finalist for this year’s Steadfast Young Landcare Leadership Award, and he says it’s a testament to the people around him and the opportunities that were offered to him.
Elected President of the ACT Rural Landholders Association, Fred was also integral to the development of the Food and Fiber Strategy – ACT’s first agricultural policy focused on urban gardening and vertical farming.
“For us, caring for the environment is a huge factor in everything we do, and linking nature reserves like Mount Ainslie throughout our property has beneficial effects on the production of our farmland while taking care of our livestock,” he says.
“Last year when we lambed there was so much rain and there is a lot of risk with that because the lambs were being born in horrible conditions. So we were able to use our tree lines and shelter the sheep, and most farmers wouldn’t really have that luxury.
“In addition to what we do, we encourage birds and bees with the tree lines, and we also focus on soil health by having a mobile coop running around the enclosures. When their droppings fall on the ground, it all gets into the soil and improves its health, and then it has ripple effects with our crop plantings or just pastures to feed the sheep.
The mobile chicken coop is an iconic feature of Majura Valley Farm, and Fred is quite proud of the work he and his family have done to produce this holistic approach to chicken farming.
With 11 total sheds across the property, 300 chickens live in each, always having full access to water and feed, as well as a safe and secure home.
“Rolling nesting boxes make the eggs clean and everyone always has great feedback on the quality of the eggs. “The best eggs I’ve ever ‘ate’ isn’t something we haven’t heard many times,” he smiles.
The ripple effect of chicken coops has increased and improved the farm’s vegetable production by improving the quality of the soil.
“With the production of our corn, we sell it to the consumer, and we also have lambs that we sell to the consumer in boxes of half lambs,” explains Fred.
“We also have the market garden that my partner Zoe has set up. So it’s, again, direct to the consumer. We grow a lot of vegetables there, and the next big business is the sheep dairy.
“In Canberra, 98% of all our leafy greens come from Sydney. So a lot of product comes from hundreds of miles away – there’s a real disconnect. I think the more food people can produce in the capital, the more it will benefit the whole system with less food waste because people care more.
Fred and his family have big plans for Majura Valley Farm, hoping to entice the Canberra community with their huge agritourism potential.
Keep your eyes peeled over the next few years for weddings and receptions, and farm-to-table restaurants and cafes, and be sure to try a farm-fresh egg – they’re ‘the best’ in Canberra .
The National Landcare Conference and Awards will be held August 23-25; learn more about nationallandcareconference.org.au
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