On a property just out of Ingham, the Cordner family hand-raise an exclusive breed of Australian heritage table poultry. We chat to them about what life is like at Bellasato Farm, where they are nurturing the award-winning ‘Sommerlad’ chicken.
Photos by willworkforfood.com.au
What makes an engineer and a microbiologist decide to become chicken farmers?
That is exactly what husband and wife Daniel and Leanne Cordner did, turning their backs on well-established careers to start up Bellasato Farm just outside of Ingham.
Dan jokes, “We couldn’t be any greener in the agriculture industry.”
And he raises a fair point. Dan worked in engineering and project management on mine sites and in the automotive industry, while wife Leanne also worked for Defence Housing Australia and medical research company Burnet Institute.
Yet here they are, farming premium, pasture-raised Sommerlad chickens and sugar cane.
So have they gone clucking mad? Or is this farm more than its cracked up to be?
Putting family before finances
Neither of the Cordner’s parents worked in agriculture, and they were on pretty good wickets in their respective industries. But Daniel explains that this was largely a lifestyle choice, to give their children more of their time and a better way to grow up.
“Working in the daily grind in the city or at a mine site, although providing great dollars, it just didn’t do it for us,” says Daniel.
A pragmatic approach was necessary though, as two greenhorns taking on an established industry was a recipe for things to go fowl.
So after doing some research, Daniel discovered that chicken farmers were something of a rare breed in North Queensland.
“We could buy locally grown veggies, seafood, beef, pork, and goat – but no chicken,” says Daniel.
“We’re both passionate foodies, love eating great produce, and we appreciate the time and effort that goes into
growing great food”.
“One thing led to another, and here we are – chicken farmers. And we’re lucky to be farming what we feel is the very best breed of chicken in the country.”
At home on the range
For a couple more accustomed to mine sites, assembly lines, laboratories and offices, life on the farm has come easy for the Cordners.
Every day brings new elements of the job to enjoy.
“Some days it’s the simple things, like a stunning sunset, or seeing the chickens tearing around their paddock chasing the bugs and grubs in the early morning,” says Daniel.
“Other days it’s the satisfaction after a hard day’s work, sitting down to a meal we largely produced ourselves with family and friends.”
The Cordners haven’t come into the Hinchinbrook Shire to take on the existing farmers, though. In fact, they are working with them and have found the seasoned veterans of the land more than willing to help out.
“We’re trialling ways to improve our soil health, build soil carbon and trial innovative farming practices,” Daniel said.
“It’s so rewarding seeing a 70 or 80-year-old sugar cane farmer who’s farmed cane their whole life get excited about something new.”
Balancing work life and family time
The Cordners have rapidly learned that farming life is not a nine-to-five job, which means demanding schedules to keep their feathered friends happy and healthy.
But with the Hinchinbrook’s finest attractions at their fingertips, getting away with the children brings its own adventures.
“We take time out often to do things with the kids, such as trips up to Wallaman Falls, or Forrest Beach just down the road from us,” Daniel says.
“Being our own business, we also have the flexibility to go along to kids activities in and outside of school, or to have the day off for things like birthdays.”
Daniel quickly adds that these days are never fully ‘off’, as there are always jobs to do on the farm.
“Our big whiteboard fortnightly planner over our breaky table helps a lot,” he laughs.
Daniel describes the Sommerlad chickens as truly something special.
“They take me back to when I was a child, having a special roast chicken at Nana’s house. We want to share that experience with North Queensland”.
All of the birds are raised on pasture for up to 14 weeks and the Cordners have all of their own processing equipment on site. They are raised on GMO free and locally sourced crumble and mixed whole grain ration and are happy creatures every day that they roam the farm.
And when Safe Food Production Queensland approval is passed on the farm in the very near future, they are looking forward to sharing the fruits of their labour with the people of North Queensland, so watch this space.
Naturally grown and pasture-raised award-winning Sommerlad chickens.
Raised on chemical-free pasture and processed in Hinchinbrook, North Queensland. Coming soon to a stockist near you.
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Braemeadows, Hinchinbrook, North Queensland | 0412 008 189 | firstname.lastname@example.org