A long held dream to be a farmer brought Andrew Hearne and his wife, Therese, to the idyllic Pappinbarra Valley. In September, Andrew celebrated ten years as farmer, head weeder, chief egg collector and apprentice pig wrangler at Near River Produce.
The pigs at Near River are the heart of the business.
“The birth of a new litter of piglets always fills me with wonder,” Andrew said.
Set on 22 acres, the mixed farm produces raised heritage breed pork, field grown vegetables and pasture raised eggs.
Together with team leader Simon Livingston, Andrew sells produce direct to the local customers, markets and chefs in Port Macquarie and Sydney. He says it’s a privilege to live in such a beautiful location and grow fresh food for the community.
“It probably took us a good 18 months to get going,” said Andrew, whose background in horticulture and landscape design helped them get started. Life on the farm means you never stop learning, and Andrew has since studied irrigation and natural area restoration.
The most common challenge they face on the farm is Mother Nature, who Andrew calls their “silent business partner”.
“Mostly she’s a delight, providing us with wonder, abundance and sustenance. However, every so often she lets us know, in no uncertain terms, who the boss really is. It sure keeps you on your toes!”
Andrew loves the Mid North Coast for the space, climate, beaches and rainforests – and the people, especially the supportive farming community.
“Earlier this year our community had to confront the reality of a bushfire, which certainly leaves you realising how insignificant you are. Right now we’re dealing with a distinct lack of rainfall, and whilst we can irrigate, nothing replenishes like rain.”
There’s no typical day on a farm, but that’s what keeps it interesting. The most important daily tasks are caring for the feed and water requirements of the animals and plants.
Farming skills include drainage and plumbing, irrigation and water supply, soil management, plant and animal health, logistics, mechanics, electrics, and building skills.
“Patience is also required in spades – farming is a long term game, with many activities taking a number of years to come to fruition, like planting an orchard, enriching your soil, and improving animal bloodlines,” said Andrew.
A unique twist to the day to day farming are special events like Meals in the Fields, now in its sixth year. This authentic paddock to plate dining experience is set in the fields where the featured food has also been raised and grown.
This year’s Meals in the Fields on Sunday 29 October will wrap up the Tastings on Hastings 2017 calendar of events. Head to nearriverproduce.com to book.
Andrew and Therese love good food, music and wine. They thrive on growing exceptional and ethical food for us all to eat and enjoy.
“Knowing who eats it and how it’s used is a privilege like no other.”
If you want to connect with your local farmer and taste delicious, fresh, real food – discover Near River.
6:00am Plan the day over breakfast; check messages and emails for late orders. View social media, weather and news. Collate orders, sort pick lists, create invoices.
7:00am Liaise with Simon about morning’s harvest plan. Load up farm vehicle with pig and chicken feed.
7:30am Animal feed and water rounds. Run irrigation for vegetables; check pump and water.
9:00am Assist Simon with balance of harvest, washing and packing. Confirm pork and vegetable deliveries with Sydney chefs and butchers.
11:00am Pack truck for Port Macquarie deliveries to chefs and homes. Confirm the afternoon’s activity in the market garden, along with any animals that may need additional care.
2:00pm Port delivery run, then collect green waste from The Other Chef, and spent brewers grain from Moorebeer.
4:00pm Pick up eggs from Oxhill Organics for Sydney delivery and our cured bacon from Wauchope butcher.
5:00pm Back at Near River, empty green waste for compost, and brewers grain for pig feed. Pack the truck for Sydney deliveries and market stalls.
7:00pm Dinner and a cleansing ale!
8:00pm Invoicing, plan tomorrow’s delivery run, confirm delivery times and then to bed.