They’ve only been on their 300 acres near Quaama for a few years but Dan and Lyndal Tarasenko of Bega Valley Eggs have already achieved so much.
“I don’t think we’ve had a typical day yet,” Lyndal laughs, running after the couple’s toddler son, Leo, “the business has been in a constant state of growth since we started in 2016.”
With 5000 laying hens and eggs being delivered to Eden in the south and Milton to the north, as well as shipments to Canberra and Sydney and an ambitious goal to be processing hundreds of meat chickens in their mobile abattoir soon, Bega Valley Eggs are making economic strides in farming.
“We like to think we make chaos an art,” Dan says with a grin “we also call it just-in-time-farming because things seem to get done in the nick of time.”
He’s not kidding – as we are speaking, a team of builders are installing a solar system on the roof of the new brooder shed, where baby chicks are kept warm.
The new shed, solar system and mobile abattoir are being built with funding from a Commonwealth Government Regional Jobs and Investment Package grant of $258,000 awarded in February 2018.
“It was a matching funds grant so we had to come up with the same amount,” Lyndal explains “and it has not been an easy ride, we’ve definitely been through all nine lives financially to get here.”
However, the support the couple has received from family and the community has kept them motivated.
“It was a real struggle for about six months. We didn’t know if we could go ahead with the project at that time. We’d already invested so much,” Lyndal shares.
“But we’ve had so much backing, all that drives you to keep going.”
Looking at her son, rolling around in the dirt and pulling pieces of bark apart, Lyndal smiles and adds “and this guy – this is exactly what we wanted for him.”
As if on cue, Leo pipes up “happy, messy kid!”
But it’s been a long road to the farming life they have now – the Tarasenko’s were travelling around South East Asia after leaving corporate careers in Sydney when they came across a book by American holistic farmer Joel Salatin, which made them realize that they could they live outside a city and grow food.
Salatin’s holistic farming methods still play a part in the business today.
“We compost like crazy,” says Dan, pointing to a huge pile “and the whole design of the abattoir is based on the idea that we don’t want to transport the chickens. They have one bad minute before they are killed instead of a bad hour or hours.”
The couple is obviously proud of the abattoir, housed in two semi-truck trailers, which features a custom-built plucking machine and which Dan is confident is the only mechanized mobile abattoir in the world.
“It’s been given an A rating by the health inspector, which is unheard of for a first abattoir,” Dan says.
Recent changes to biosecurity laws came through a few weeks ago and will mean installing a wheel washing station for all farm visitors, amongst other requirements.
“Lyndal hasn’t slept much since Leo was born but it’s been even worse lately as she’s been doing all the health and safety requirements for the abattoir,” Dan says.
The first 350 meat chickens have already been processed in the facility and now plump, deeply coloured chickens are chilling in rows in the coolroom while others are labelled and lined up in the freezer.
“We air dry them for a few days, which makes the skin crisp up nicely,” Dan explains.
And the upside of all the hard work?
“The question of what to have for dinner is easy – we have so much chicken in the freezer!”