Some people return to their roots in the Otways and bring a new way of living and working on the land. Such was the case with Ros Denney and here is her story as told to Otway Life Magazine:
OLM: What brought you to this part of the world?
RD: I spent the first 15 years of my life at Glenaire on the family farm, before leaving for higher education and the pursuit of dreams in a wider world. I completed a BA in fashion and then pursued a career in fashion couture. I loved the bespoke creation, the design and the interaction with my lovely clients.
My husband (Ercole) and l were returning to Glenaire often as weekenders, however a chance opportunity arose at the end of 2011 when we sold our Melbourne home. We decided to spend the summer holidays at Glenaire, and needless to say, it has been an endless summer!
OLM: How was the idea for Saint Aire Farm conceived?
RD: Over the 2011/12 summer, Ercole and l began tending to a property which was to be part of sucessional plans in our family between my sister and myself. We worked very hard pulling out fences which had fallen into disrepair, installing water troughs for the then, agisted cattle. Gradually the lure of the land beckoned, a total farm plan was installed, we purchased our own livestock, laying the foundations for a beef enterprise. Other adjoining land has since been purchased and there is much work to be done!
So from couture to cattle l went. I have always been interested in niche agriculture, and like to have control over all stages of production to the end consumer as l did in couture. It is fabulous to get direct feedback from customers regarding our beef and frankly, I couldn’t imagine doing business any other way. Happy, healthy animals result in wonderful meat quality and I believe in ethical food consumption. Saint Aire was born out of a desire to offer locally produced quality beef to people who want to know the provenance of their food.
OLM: What are the challenges of such a big change in lifestyle for you?
RD: Obviously l love the new lifestyle change and the benefits of being in a more local community, however moving from a world class city such as Melbourne, so rich with cultural diversity can be a little challenging at times. I do miss food shopping at the South Melbourne Market and being able to pop out to restaurants and cultural events. However, over the past few years l have found myself going back to Melbourne less and less, and feel quite blessed to have great rural opportunities in from of me.
OLM: Do you have a favourite place in the Otways?
RD: Our farm is situated on an elevated tract of land between the Aire Valley flats and Bass Strait. The Ford and Aire Rivers meander through the valley until they reach the estuary. The Aire estuary is a special place = originally a rich food source for indigenous inhabitants for millennia, its now known to many people for camping and fishing. For us, it’s a lovely local place to visit.
OLM: What are your hopes for the future – for yourself and the region?
RD: We are beginning to see a diverse range of boutique producers on the Otway Coast and hinterland. It is a testament to both the climate and soils and the entrepreneurial skills of the people who live and work here, and l look forward to this ‘harvest trail’ expanding in our region.
I am a member of Otway Coast Regenerative Farmers. We are all niche agricultural producers who have a commitment to improving the health of our animals and landscape and I enjoy the support and learning which this group provides.
At the moment Saint Aire is a ‘seasonal’ producer, and as we begin to build up our herd numbers l look forward to consistently supplying premium beef, processed on average at two years and dry aged for two and a half weeks. We believe this is the optimal time to process for flavor and texture. The Bazadais genetics in our beef herd help ensure a delicate softness to our meat.
The French Bazadais breed originate from Bazas, a little town south of Bordeaux. We have a small amount of full-blood stud stock and would like to see these genetics used with other herds in the region. They are easy doing bovines, exceptional feed convertors, and have a lot to offer the beef industry.
OLM: Where can people buy your product?
RD: We offer 8 and 12 kilo mixed box beef sales, and encourage people to get in touch directly regarding processing dates. We also sell through Tastes of the Region in Apollo Bay, with individual portions also sold at the Apollo Bay Foreshore market and soon the Gellibrand Market.
Of course, people should come and visit our farm if they are interested in our Bazadais cattle!