Michael Croft isn’t joking when he says he can taste his farm. “It’s a bit like terroir,” he says, referring to the French wine term that describes how each parcel of land bestows a unique quality on its grapes.
Croft farms beef, lamb and pork on his Uriarra farm, raising his animals biodynamically and finishing them off on grass, instead of going for the easy way out by finishing them off on grain.
“With animals that are grass-finished, you can taste the difference (between farms), and you can smell it (the difference) when it’s cooking.”
Croft is absolutely sure of this after tasting his Mountain Creek beef alongside meat from fellow Belted Galloway producers in Murrumbateman and Bungendore.
They are among a growing number of people in the Canberra region who are focused on growing and producing food in small operations, as ethically as possible, with an emphasis on quality, not quantity.
In many cases, these dedicated producers oversee the whole operation, from paddock to plate, often selling it themselves at the EPIC and Southside farmers’ markets, allowing them to tell their stories and get valuable customer feedback.
Croft is passionate about ensuring the survival of rare breeds, hence his interest in the Belted Galloway, an ancient Scottish breed of cattle, and Wessex Saddleback pigs, so rare that there are less than 100 breeding sows left in the world.
So dedicated is he to the locavore principle – consuming food that is produced within a small radius of where it is bought – that he has knocked back invitations to supply his product to Sydney restaurants.
Instead, he has forged valuable relationships with people like Kim de Poorter, a Canberra chef who draws on his training in classical French cooking to produce outstanding rillettes, patés and terrines.