Jacinta and Tony Van Stekelenburg: Our Farm
Jacinta and Tony Van Stekelenburg seek to run their small farm completely off-the-grid, growing enough beef, chicken, fruit and vegetables to feed their family with enough to sell as well, ultimately sustaining generations who will be able to live off the land. They purchased their 25-acre farm on the Gippsland Plains in 2017, in which they saw the potential to realise their vision for farming today.
They want their family to live off the land and know what real food tastes like and where it comes from. They are just beginning their journey.
“We are in Loch and we are on 25 acres and we’re trying to live a regenerative sustainable lifestyle.”
“Regenerative is going beyond sustainable. We don’t want to keep things at the status quo. We want to put more back into the farm than what we found here. So by our farming practices we should build up soil organic matter therefore being able to grow more nutritious food and better pasture for our cattle and sheep.”
Enterprise: Mixed lifestyle farm
Business Name: ‘Greedy Guts Farm’
Catchment Management Region: Port Phillip and Westernport
Landcare Network: Bass Coast
LGA: Bass Coast Shire Council
Landform: Gippsland Plains
Soil Type: Grey clay, vertosols
Annual Rainfall Average: 908.1 mm or 35-.8 inches (Source- Bureau of Meteorology)
The enterprise is in the process of development, to realise the Van Stekelenburg’s vision.
“My focus will be on selling the vegetables because that's why I wanted a farm is to make sure people were eating nutrient-dense food.”
“Even in the food cells I can grow vegetables to sell if I want to. At the moment I'm just using them to feed chooks. We're certainly feeding ourselves and as I said I've got five kids who've got partners and they're all eating from the farm. That is the plan. Eventually I think down the track there will be a mobile slaughterhouse. It is in the wind that I'll be able to get someone and sell meat from here."
The property is not self-sufficient at this stage.
“We both work away from the farm because it is not an income related farm yet.”
They are still learning how to understand the land and implement organic farm practices.
“We have only been here for two years. Prior to that it was used for beef and some horses and also used a lot of weed spray, roundup, chemicals used on the property. We stopped that.”
The Van Stekelenburg’s seek to develop an integrated farming profile, involving the cattle and the hens based on rotational principles. The cattle are moved around the farm on a strip grazing rota, which is determined by the location of water troughs.
“All the animals on the farm work…except Wallace [pet sheep].”
The Van Stekelenburg’s are seeking to manage the natural water on the property and put it to use.
“One per cent more organic matter will hold per acre something like 75,000 more litres of water. All that compaction it's just running off. That's what our aim is to build up at least another per cent over a couple of years of organic matter.”
Our Landscape Activities
In the two years, the family has been here, they have transformed the soil by fruit and vegetable plantings, tree plantings, rotating cattle in smaller paddocks and using home grown chicken manure to fertilise and renew the land.
“We don't use any chemicals…It actually has been chemical-free for two years. All the feed that comes in is organic.”
The biggest challenge is to control the water that runs of the hillside behind the farm that keeps ‘gushing down’. To this end, the Van Stekelenburg’s have planted 1300 trees in two areas.
“We found when we moved them [the cattle] we didn't have the shade that we wanted. We said right we're going to plan it. We worked how we would be moving them and where we want that shade. We put one there. At the top we put another one. The top one will provide shade but that was a real water catchment thing, that's at the very top of the hill which is on a slope. We're trying to stop that water gushing down so we put a band of trees there.”
Our Practices and Successes
“I have seen a difference because that was very denuded paddock. The horses must have been in there all the time, it was like dust. Already when I dig in there it's soft and fluffy and so many more bugs and microbes. There wasn't a worm in that paddock and now there's microbes and fungi and all sorts of things in that soil.”
“We're members of Landcare, yeah and I'm a member of an organic dairy group. We're not dairy farmers, but I joined the organic dairy farming group. They are like-minded, that's why I joined that…because they're organic, they've got the same ideas as me.”