Cracking the egg industry is no yolk; you really have to shell out a lot of time and energy. It’s no mean feat, but Hervey Range hen farmer Kerry Dean knows all too well how to get back in the saddle.
Navigating back into the workforce is a common dilemma for women who have had children. Some choose to go back part time; others will study to prepare for the next chapter of their lives.
Others, like Kerry Dean, dust off their straw hat and get their hands dirty – establishing their own farm.
Kerry is the owner and operator of Saddle Mountain Homestead, calmly nestled in the gorgeous surroundings of Hervey Range, just north of Townsville.
Saddle Mountain Homestead is a picturesque property which, at this time of year, carries with it an almost fictional mist and a crisp, rainforest-like tinge of green. It is the sort of lush environment that upon visiting, is met with a sweet relief upon escaping the dry rainshadow that is the current climate at Townsville.
At Saddle Mountain Homestead, Kerry tends to 2,500 hens, 50 ducks, 10 lowline cattle, eight goats and three gorgeously faithful Maremma sheepdogs.
They say that happy chickens lay happy eggs, but… two-and-a-half thousand hens?
You did read that correctly.
Two-and-a-half thousand birds call this beautiful place home, and we’re sure that if they could talk, they would tell you they are most certainly more content for it.
“The dream that I have is to produce a trusted brand of eggs, that all my customers know come from a happy farm life,” says Kerry.
Farming runs in Kerry’s blood, with her father an established grazier. It was her dad’s decision to introduce chickens to his farm, which inspired her to try her own hand at farming – something she had always wanted to do.
“At the time, I was 36 and a stay at home mum, looking to get back into the workforce,” says Kerry.
“My previous work experience was as a personal assistant, so with two small children it wasn’t a job that I could commit the time and effort to, hence the change to farming.”
So while so many work-from-home parents are perched at their computer screens, Kerry truly is at one with nature, tending to her farm from the crack of dawn, each and every day.
“From all my research I thought that farming would be a great industry and give me the opportunity to have a great lifestyle, plus the ability to work at home.”
Now, Kerry is truly at home on the range and she loves nothing more than to watch her lively children forage and play jubilantly on the land while she gets to work.
“There is honestly so much that I enjoy about working on the farm. Every day is different, every day is a challenge. I love working with the animals in a place that is so beautiful. It’s perfect to call home. The kids are having an amazing upbringing here.”
THE RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
On a visit to Saddle Mountain, the first thing you notice is the adorable mobile caravans in which the hens reside.
They are designed so as to enable the team to move the birds around to fresh pasture regularly, so they are never short of a feed.
And boy, do these ladies eat like queens.
Kerry and her team of helpers source feed produced in the Tablelands to ensure all the hens’ needs are met. It’s their balanced and nutritional diet of grains, vitamins and minerals that make all the difference. Let us promise you, it really shows in the eggs that they lay.
“I think the quality and freshness is the thing that stands out the most, says Kerry.
“They are truly delicious eggs.”
“We collect daily and then clean, grade, candle and box the eggs the same day. They are then placed straight to the cold room to maintain their quality.”
THE CHALLENGES ON THE LAND
While Kerry loves her lifestyle, there is no shying away from hard work to keep operations running smoothly.
Early wake ups and late finishes are par for the course, but it is the meticulous planning that makes Saddle Mountain run so smoothly.
“We have to plan six months in advance to order the hens from the hatchery. This can be a challenge when a restaurant calls and says they would like five boxes per week starting tomorrow,” says Kerry.
It is a team effort, with Kerry assisted by her partner Wayne Stuy and offsider Nikki Stinson.
“Everyone who is in the farming industry knows that there is always something that needs doing or has to be repaired. Animals all need feed, water, shelter daily.”
“Luckily for me I have some amazing workers and I really couldn’t do it all without them and the amazing support of my partner, Wayne.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR SADDLE MOUNTAIN?
While the eggs are without a doubt, the main attraction, there are plenty more farm fresh products that will be rolled out in the coming years.
“We produce chicken eggs, duck eggs and also have plans to sell small amounts of beef and goat meat in the years to come,” says Kerry.
“We have planted a lime orchard and a few other fruit trees which will be ready for sale in about two years. Our latest project is garlic and ginger, which we hope to be ready in about 12 months.”
SO, WHERE CAN WE TRY THESE EGGS?
More and more retailers across Townsville, Ayr and even Tully are stocking Saddle Mountain eggs while a range of local restaurants have also added them to the menu.
But if you want to try them for yourself, you can deal direct with the supplier.
“I do all my own deliveries, so it is a great way for me to keep in contact with the stockists and customers,” says Kerry.
Kerry offers free workplace delivery for orders over five dozen, so visit the Saddle Mountain Homestead Facebook page for an up-to-date list of stockists or to get in touch with the farm and say howdy to some happy hens.
Saddle Mountain Homestead’s hens are true free range, producing all natural, authentic eggs. They are naturally and humanely raised on large pastures on a local family farm. Saddle Mountain Homestead eggs are tasty and freshly delivered each week – free to workplaces with orders over 5dz. Available to purchase from numerous retailers across the region, or if you would like them cooked for you, many restaurants utilise them in their ingredients. For a full list of stockists and restaurants, visit our Facebook page.
Saddle Mountain Homestead | 0437 429 689 | Facebook / saddlemountainhomestead