I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting Josh, from The Molong Farm, at Moore Park Farmer's Markets on Wednesday. "We're the Hollywood of the Central West" he tells me, and flashes his big friendly smile, "Here, taste our figs... I climbed the tree myself and picked them yesterday". How could I resist? They're sweet and juicy and taste very, well, authentic. There's something about home-grown produce that just has a distinctive and legitimate flavour. Is it the texture? Or the fact that you can actually smell it? And sometimes the sheer fact that a whole box of fruit doesn't look exactly the same, exactly perfect, means they're natural and not over-fertilised or sprayed with chemicals. Or maybe because of the heart and soul of the people who have gone to such trouble to provide a fresh bounty, that it's actually the taste of love?
It's showery today so there's not a huge crowd but it doesn't take long before Josh is suddenly busy. Into the electric frypan he's brought with him from home, Josh tosses a pile of fresh bacon. Soon sizzling, it releases its enticing and hunger-inducing aroma. For a mere $7, the breakfast burrito of free-range bacon and eggs and a garnish of tomato or corn relish is obviously popular.
I don't want to interrupt so I wait in the wings and browse the produce. There's home-made apricot jam with three ingredients - apricots, sugar and lemon juice, no preservatives or artificial flavours; vacuum-sealed portions of ham, copa - meat taken from the neck of the pig and basted with red wine and paprika as it ages, prosciutto, pancetta which is hung for three weeks to age, and ready-to-eat pulled pork flavoured with apple, cabbage and coriander. Dips made from their garden produce, whole legs of pork and lamb, bacon from Black Berkshire pigs, eggs from pasture-raised Australorp chickens, home-made tomato relish, and bread rolls made with flour from the local mill are just some of the local and hand-made produce available from The Molong Farm - check out their full range here.
Josh and Emma keep about 60 chickens for their supply of eggs. "Our poultry are rescue chickens - taken from farms that would otherwise slaughter them around one-year-old as their production rates drop. This means they get another good five or so years at our place, completely free-ranging all day every day", says Josh. 'Same with our pigs, they have a ball, they're happy, healthy animals who get to live a life like animals should. And we consume the whole animal out of respect, not just the prime butcher cuts where a lot gets wasted", he adds. And they try not to waste anything, collecting 'waste grain' from breweries to feed the pigs, and waste fruit and vegies from various suppliers to feed their ducks, chickens and geese. The manure from the poultry is then composted and used to fertilise the citrus trees and ornamental garden. This natural, 'slow food' process is very labour intensive but they feel they're 'creating' great food for sale, not mass producing.
Josh and Emma made the tree-change from Sydney to the central west of NSW a few years ago. Both left busy and stressful hospitality jobs to give their children a different lifestyle, to live, appreciate and return to their natural environment as much as it has given to them. Passionate about the quality of food, where it comes from, and how it's processed helped them make the dynamic decision to purchase a small-holding. Turning that into a sustainable business to support the family has been a huge learning curve but a totally rewarding adventure as they suss out various marketing ventures.
One such venture is a 1976 Viscount Caravan which Josh and Emma have restored and converted to a commercial kitchen. The vintage van is now a Food Van, visiting local markets and providing private catering at functions throughout the countryside. They try to attend as many regional markets as possible, including the Moore Park Farmers Market every Wednesday and Saturday, plus Molong Village Markets, Bowra Farmers Markets and Orange Farmers Markets. They only bring to market their excess meat and veg, so it's good to know if I can't get everything I need today, I can also order any extras online.
Courtesy of The Molong Farm, I've come home with a goodie-bag of their own cured bacon, prosciutto and pancetta. I grew up a country girl on a dairy farm and totally 'get' Josh and Emma's heart for all things natural, their love for their animals, and the desire to produce wholesome organic food. Sipping my first cup of tea over breakfast and enjoying every mouthful of their meat made with love, I hope they know their effort is part of a much bigger picture, and the world is much better for it.