For the love of the flock


For the love of the flock

words Heidi HELBIG
PHOTOGRAPHY pete thornton
>> Georgie Rogers with her Maremma Billy

As the sun sinks gently over the distant Mount Lofty Ranges, bathing the landscape in soft pink, the silence is broken only by the plaintive bleat of an infant lamb.

“This is my favourite part of the day – just the light is amazing,” says Georgie Rogers as she pulls on a pair of knee-high rubber boots and heads for the highest part of the property, her Maremma Billy at her side.

It’s a twice-daily ritual during lambing season as Georgie scours the landscape for any new additions to her flock that might be concealed in a rocky outcrop or copse of gums. 

With overnight temperatures plummeting below zero, the 44-year-old is hopeful but pragmatic about what she might find.

“We had two sets of twins and one of each didn’t survive through the day and night – unfortunately there was nothing I could do,” Georgie says.

“Last year I cried every time it happened and felt responsible. Now I’m more hands off and take it as it comes; it’s survival of the fittest.

“But I love watching them, which takes stupid amounts of time!”

It’s not lost on Georgie that running a farm of 70-odd Suffolks couldn’t be further from the busy restaurant kitchens of Adelaide where she worked as a chef for much of her career. 

Working the remote Springton property on her own for small margins, Georgie says the solitary lifestyle and hard work is vastly different to her “fantasy”, and admits “there have been times when I really didn’t know if I could keep going.”

But when the chips are down, she comes back to her values around sustainability and what that means for food production.

“I guess I remind myself why I bought in the first place – I just really wanted to produce my own food,” Georgie says.

“Thinking way down the track – especially given what we’ve seen since Covid and what’s happening to our food systems – I think it’s advisable to hang onto some land if it means I can look after the people around me.”

Georgie’s ‘paddock-to-plate’ food philosophy is firmly embedded in her personal and professional belief system.

“I’m really conscious about where food comes from and I’m keen to align myself with chefs and food lovers that support small farms,” Georgie explains.

“I know it’s not always possible but it’s really important that small farmers are encouraged to sell their produce, and when people accept the higher price and understand the value, it means other farmers might be encouraged to give it a go.”

“I’m really conscious about where food comes from and I’m keen to align myself with chefs and restaurants that support small farms.”

- Georgie Rogers

In Georgie’s utopia, trading goods and services would be an everyday way-of-life. 

“I really love the idea of having something you can share, handing that back into the circular system,” Georgie says. “I wouldn’t go so far as having a bartering economy, but I like the idea that I could swap a few things, even swap trades.”

Georgie has embraced sustainability across her 80 acre property, which is completely off-grid thanks to rainwater tanks, solar power and battery storage, plus a dam that captures run-off from neighbouring properties.

Although not operating as certified organic, the farm is free of chemical inputs and artificial fertilisers. 

Georgie’s stock is entirely grass-fed, butchered locally and sold direct to the public and restaurants.

“If you’re bringing grain from off-property that gets harvested and trucked, it feeds into that vegan sustainability argument about how much water and fuel it takes to rear a steak,” Georgie says.

“If I can have a bit of land and keep as many animals as is sustainable, I’m happy to keep it at that, which just means I have to work to sustain my lifestyle – and to be able to afford more fencing!”

Georgie applies the same principles of “conscious and careful” in her professional life as a chef at Artisans of Barossa.

“There are more and more restaurant guests who are becoming conscious diners – they like to see a mention on the menu of where their food has been sourced from. 

“It builds greater connection,” she says. “And clever chefs are good at using all parts of the animal so there’s no wastage.”

For Georgie, the bottom line is there’s no compromise when it comes to the things she loves.

“I really like being in the country but I’m still cosmopolitan at heart,” she grins. “I will always want good quality food and creativity in my life.”

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