ONE young Cohuna man is diversifying a dairy farm with a bus full of chooks and some international visitors.
Elliot Fehring grew up on his family’s property in the north of the state before taking a few years to travel around Australia and southeast Asia.
The 27-year-old volunteered on a number of farms through Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) and explored alternative practices, before returning at age 22 to his family property, now owned by Michael and Nicci Hore.
He now hosts his own WWOOF-ers on the dairy and free-range chicken farm, and is constantly looking at new ways to expand the enterprise.
Elliot’s foray into organic eggs includes rotating a bus full of chickens through sections of paddocks, three days behind the dairy herd.
He said the addition of the chicken bus to the farming operation had reaped rewards.
“I found so many niche benefits of doing it,” he said.
“The chickens eat the grubs in cow patties and we don’t have to harrow the pastures after the cows.
“Also the chook fertiliser helps the paddocks, and we use our waste milk to mix with grain to make a porridge to feed to our chooks. They love it.
“And the by-product of this is great eggs.”
Elliot was inspired by American farmer, Joel Salatin, who will host a farm walk on the property in late February, 2013.
“He’s a great innovator and inspires others to farm,” Elliot said.
Elliot said his travels around Australia and the world had also shaped his farming ventures.
“It was a great experience,” he said.
“I was having a look at what other people do and learning from it. There’s plenty that we could learn from the underdeveloped world’s farming practices.”
He continues this learning by hosting other volunteers for anything from a month up to a year.
At the moment they have an Italian traveling couple helping out at the farm.
“They definitely provide a cultural enlightenment,” he said.
“We’ve really enjoyed cooking and eating Mexican food with chopsticks.”
He said the WWOOF-ers also gained a lot out of their time on the farm.
“They get the Australian experience; mustering cows and the country lifestyle.
“It’s worked pretty well so we’d like to continue hosting in the future.”
Elliot is constantly looking for ways he can diversify into complementary enterprises and further reach out to consumers.
He currently sells his organic produce at farmers’ markets, Bendigo Wholefoods and Strathfieldsaye’s Edwards Greengrocer and Deli.
“With dairy farming the issue I have is there’s no connection with the customer so I’m hoping to start direct marketing to the consumer, through farmers’ markets and by selling directly to restaurants.”
Elliot said working on the farm was the right career choice for him.
“This is a lifestyle not a job (and it is) such a rewarding lifestyle.”