Danny’s Farm

History

Danny leased 5 acres of his father’s land in 2013. He wanted to establish a working organic smallholding which could one day support his dream to open a restaurant on the farm mainly using ingredients grown directly on the land. He wanted to educate himself through a firsthand experience of farming, connecting with the land, the seasons and the local community.

Becoming a farmer was a somewhat unconventional career choice following a university degree in English & Psychology, but after travelling through Europe WWOOFing on organic properties in Italy, France & Spain, he knew that farming and working with food was where his true passion lay. Inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage and “lunatic” farmer Joel Salatin of Polyface, he wanted to farm in a way that produced food with integrity, to care for the land in a sustainable and regenerative way, and to make a living doing something truly worthwhile and fulfilling.

The beginning

Danny started out with an inherited herd of alpacas, a small herd of Scottish highland cattle and the beginnings of a market garden. Then came three pigs (Piggy Minaj, Piggy Smalls and Greg) a flock of chickens and a hand-built clay wood-fired pizza oven, ‘the true heart of the farm’, says Danny. The market story started at the Daylesford Farmer’s Market in November 2014 with delicious free range egg & bacon wraps and since then Danny has gradually built up to 2 markets per week with a loyal customer base. This has enabled the conversion of an old horse float into Danny’s Farm Food Trailer.

Danny’s farm venture has been supported by friends, family & animals, WWOOFERS, a supportive local community, and the help of like-minded & inspirational people with a steadfast dedication to producing and serving high quality, seasonal and sustainable food.

Farming principles and methodology

Danny is devoted to producing sustainably-grown food using organic and permaculture techniques. He grows seasonal heritage veggies, has a diverse fruit & nut orchard, and holistically manages cattle and poultry in a rotational system. Whilst Danny adheres to regenerative and organic farming principles, including free range animals, the farm is not certified organic because the grain fed to the poultry is not certified organic. Danny chooses instead to use local grain for the animals as the closest organic feed option comes all the way from Queensland.

Water access and rights

The farm has stock and domestic water rights, including dam, ground and rain water. Regulatory obstacles in relation to water access prohibit Danny’s capacity to sell irrigated fruit or vegetables- see section below.

Distribution of farm produce

Farm baked produce is sold at farmers markets in Daylesford, Ballarat, Creswick, Ballan & Melbourne. Some baked produce is sold to local cafes in the Daylesford area. Excess produce, including vegetables, fruit, nuts, eggs etc are gifted and exchanged with other local producers and community members. 

Challenges

Access to land without incurring a heavy debt is one of the biggest challenges for young people wanting to farm as a career.  Danny has been fortunate in being able to lease 5 acres from his father, which makes the venture more affordable. This has also allowed Danny to trial farming, prior to making a larger financial commitment. The 5 acres has enough accommodation to enable farm stays and WWOOFers to stay on the property and help with farm work. 

Infrastructure– a local abattoir that processes poultry is needed. Currently the closest poultry abattoir is on the other side of Melbourne and access is tricky for small new farmers.

Regulatory obstacles that limit the farm are those pertaining to milk pasteurisation and to commercial water. Danny is not able to utilise milk produced on the farm (in ice-cream and baked goods) because of these regulations. Commercial water regulations prohibit Danny from selling irrigated vegetables and fruit produced on the farm. The ‘one size fits all’ in relation to water rights is problematic for small famers. The administration for 1 megalitre of water is the same as for 100 megalitres. The application costs alone are $2-3,000, which is a heavy burden when starting out, and then the water has to be paid for on top of that. Surface water is effectively locked up leaving bore water as the only alternative which presents extra drilling costs. 

Making a living: Danny is committed to growing food as a livelihood, not as a hobby. As a small grower, selling value added items makes the farm more financially viable. He is keen to explore complementary enterprises that can support each other, (such as Harcourt Organic Farm Coop), a venture where food growing, responsibility, cost of land, tools, equipment and infrastructure are all shared.

Learnings and future plans

After five and a half years of farming Danny is integrating his learnings and making commitments to the next stage. This next stage involves exploring the possibility for a subdivision of the land on which he farms to allow him to purchase a 25 acre portion. The next stage also involves developing a closed loop system which integrates Danny’s determination to reduce waste, to provide meaningful employment and to grow nutritious food where people live. The emphasis of this new venture is on growing fresh herbs, salad and microgreens, using waste wooden pallets and waste 2-litre milk containers as wicking beds. Danny envisages this venture as a cooperative social enterprise with the design and prototype shared around the world through open source systems. The enterprise will also include an educational component with schools and disability groups, showing young people how to use waste products for growing food, demonstrate simple ways of growing nutritional fresh food for people, and inspiring change. The tops of the milk bottles will be fed through a plastic munching machine contribute to manufacture of worm farms and so on.

Initial discussions with Hepburn Shire and with Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre have met with positive responses. Danny envisages the venture being based in local towns where the waste is generated, where larger numbers of people are living, and where employment is needed.

The venture can be established with simple infrastructure – a couple of shipping containers with rain water tanks attached, plus poly-tunnels.  Keeping it simple is important so it can easily be replicated in other locations around town.  

As another venture towards becoming more carbon neutral and minimising his use of fossil fuels for personal transport, Danny has purchased an old vehicle which will run on used vegetable oil. This new vehicle will transport Danny’s value-added produce to local markets and cafes.

Contact

Contact details: Danny Kinnear, Richards Road, Blampied, 3364, e: danny@dannysfarm.com.au

Type: Small farm and secondary value added produce business

Size and Location: 5 acres leased from family, plus access to 125 acres

Products: Eggs from free range chickens and ducks, meat from cows, fibre from alpacas, value added baked foods and icecream