The recent discovery of Dorrigo Peppers on an already thriving farm just outside of Dorrigo, could be the ‘pot of gold’ every farmer dreams about. Owners Meredith Taylor and Chris Lofqvist were already busy running ‘Stellar Dairy Goat Farm’ and ‘Cheep and Quack Hatchery’, along with their off-farm day jobs, before being alerted to the presence of the peppers. They run their multiple enterprises from their 56 acre farm in Deervale, described by Meredith as “our BLISS”. “We only discovered the region in 2015 when camping on my cousins property at Bostobrick,” says Meredith. “We went searching for waterfalls, Chris being a part-time photographer. We thought ‘Waterfall Way’ must have some waterfalls. We liked it so much we thought this region could be home.” A very familiar tale.
“I’m not sure we had any real plans when moving here except to just carry on what we were already doing on the Gold Coast… principally breeding and selling poultry and having the goats breeding for milk for soap making. More space, more privacy, beautiful location,” says Meredith. The unexpected discovery of Dorrigo Peppers on their new property has added a new dimension to their enterprise. We decided to interview Meredith, a Registered Nurse and multiple hatted farmer, for ‘Our Season of Food Promotion’.
Meredith where did you acquire your skills in animal husbandry, farming and making a living on the land?
I was born in central west NSW and we lived on a sheep and wheat property. We left the farm after my father died from cancer when I was six. We first lived in Canberra then moved onto one acre in Toowoomba QLD. On that one acre my parents had chickens, ducks and goats for a short time. I have almost always had some chooks, even in a very small back yard in Rozelle in Sydney where I lived to doing nursing training at Sydney Hospital. When I moved to the Gold Coast on one acre I naturally had chooks and ducks.
Later goats were added with no particular purpose, except a vague idea that they may have kids and I might learn to milk them and drink the milk. Inevitably the kids arrived and I learnt to milk the does. Learning how to make soap followed soon after.
Caring for goats was a steep learning curve to begin with and continues today. It has been mostly trial and error. There have been some disasters and some amazing highs. The fact that I’m a Registered Nurse certainly helps with animal management, especially their health.
So the goats are bred principally for milk production?
Yes the goats are principally for milk for making soap. When they are producing a large volume we also drink the milk and I make goat milk cheese . Bucklings are generally sold at a young age. Doelings we have kept to increase the numbers. We currently have 22 does and doelings and 1 Buck and 2 bucklings.
What range of fowl are produced at the ‘Cheep and Quack Hatchery’?
The Hatchery actually began 18 years ago on the Gold Coast.
Now in Deervale we breed a wide variety. From cross-bred layer hens to pure-breeds like Silkies, Frizzle Bantams and Wyandottes, we have a wealth of experience in breeding and rearing chickens, ducks and ducklings, and even turkeys and geese at certain times of the year.
So what is the primary commercial angle of your farm?
The commercial angle of our little farm is still a work in progress. We did not know that we have 1000’s of daffodils growing here, planted by the original developers of this little farm.
They flower in June, July and August. So far we have sold them on a flower stand on Waterfall Way near our drive way, and at Coffs Markets. I make Goat milk soap with milk from the goats and that little business is growing slowly. Obviously our chooks are a going concern. I have been breeding border collies for about 10 years and hope to start with maremmas this year.
Puppies are sold directly from the farm.
We have also recently discovered that we have Dorrigo Pepper trees (Tasmainnia stipitata) and are hoping that a small business can be made selling the peppers. Oh yeah- we also produce honey from our flow hive and I also make elder flower cordial.
So what’s the story behind the discovery of Dorrigo Peppers on your farm?
The family who developed this farm into what it is today visited us in 2017. The farm had originally been part of a larger dairy farm. On a walk around the property they showed us the trees and later decsribed how they picked and dried the berries and leaves for sale. We have taken up the challenge. Berries are currently in season, so we are picking, drying and packing. Our new Dorrigo Pepper web page will be live by the end of April (we hope).
Are you still Nursing?
Yes I am still working as I registered Nurse. Last year was my 40 year anniversary as a nurse. I work between 25 and 40 hours per week on the phone as a triage nurse. We take calls from most of Australia.
And Chris works off the farm too?
Yes, Chris has full-time work in Coffs harbour as a Fitter and Turner.
How are you fitting it all in!!??
Good Question !! .. I am very busy ! I love it all 🙂
So how and where can people buy your produce?
Our chickens, soap and peppers are primarily sold on-line. We also sell through markets and we have a flowerstand at our farm. And our puppies are sold directly from the farm.
Can I ask, what aspect of your farming life is your favourite and why?
My first passion has always been poultry. I have had chickens for most of my life. But I do love the goats. I had no idea what would develop after buying my first 4 goats. The breeding, milking and soap making are now also passions. Chris has had not any farming life experience and he has come along on the journey at top speed.
What piece of advice were you given about farming here that has been like gold?
We have been given so much great information from locals. Before we even moved in we were told about the problem in this area with wild dogs. We have alpaca and donkeys with the goats and sheep to protect them and the maremmas are in the poultry paddock daily. Also local advice about weather and rainfall has been invaluable. Being told about the Tasmainnia Stipitata!! Hopefully that’s a pot of gold !!
Bellingen Shire is a secret Australian hamlet along the Waterfall Way on the NSW mid-north coast. This region is popular for its unique landscape where the Great Dividing Range almost touches the sea. It boasts a diverse history and proud indigenous culture, and is home to an eclectic and supportive community of farmers, alternative lifestylers, tree-changers, and families who have called this region home for generations. Interesting in so many ways and with so much to offer, it’s no wonder visitors return time & time again, while other never leave…