EVERYTHING you see at Cromwell Farms serves to reinforce an image of farming as a healthy, happy industry.
The pigs are fat and don’t smell. The pastures are rich, the cattle quiet and sociable and the two bulls placid; there are cute puppies, a lush food forest, jars of honey from hives across the valley.
Even the new brumby mare is calm, encouraging Greg Cromwell to suggest she’s ready for riding.
Not so visible is what goes on behind the rosy scenes: hard work and co-operation.
Add to that a restless creativity, bold ideas, an entrepreneurial talent and can-do attitude and you have the recipe for a wholesome, diverse, high-functioning farm.
The ethos derived from sport, especially team sport, is key to the Cromwells making a go of it, says Greg, who came to Goonengerry 15 years ago from Toronto, Canada, with his Toronto, NSW-born, wife Alison.
“Farming’s a team sport. We’ve grown up being team sport players, and we’re a great team on the farm,” he says.
Greg’s played 160 games of rugby for Bangalow, including five premierships, while for years Alison played netball competitively and is president of the Mullumbimby Netball Association.
Their three daughters all play the game, competing and travelling to represent their secondary school, Trinity Catholic College in Lismore.
But farming is also a 24/7, 365-day commitment, Greg says, and such a sporty lifestyle is only possible through the flexibility provided by the entrepreneurial nature of the Cromwells’ farming business – and solid teamwork.
While Greg is the ideas man, it’s his wife and daughters – Aubrey, 17, Morley, 15, and Bella, 13 – who do the day-to-day stuff.
“While I run off onto the next project, they’re the ones making things happen,” he says.
And what a lot of things there are to do: there’s the daily three-hour round trip to collect a ute-load of food scraps from Woolworths to feed out to the English large black pigs, which can number up to 50; there’s 60 head of dexter cattle to move around, and occasionally inventory for sale; heritage chooks to be sold; firewood loaded and delivered; five horses to tend; 15 kelpie puppies to be nourished and found homes; deliveries of beef, pork and garden produce to multiple restaurants, including Harvest in Newrybay, the Bangalow Bowlo’s Stockpot Kitchen (250 serves in one night), 100 Mile Table, The Farm in Ewingsdale and Black Sombrero in Lismore.
Morley is the sales genius, working social media to market the farm’s dogs, pigs, chickens and cows.
She and her sister also organise the farm’s pop-up pork day, with its 120 hungry guests to keep happy.
“The three girls set it all up, do all the selling, take visitors on tour, keep an eye on their children,” Greg says.
Greg has a degree in administration and commercial studies and he’s a true entrepreneur, spotting opportunities, and the Cromwells’ myriad other business ventures underpin the farm.
They are Australian agents for RM Williams and Blundstone boots, selling hundreds of thousand of pairs into Canada.
“It’s a big deal, and has allowed us to some freedom to undertake new ventures here,” Greg says.
There’s an arrangement with Steam Whistle beer and, through a company called Espresso Unplugged, they market and supply coffee equipment which doesn’t need electricity.
The connection with Canada is strong: a reciprocal, respectful give-and-take. They are even sending one of the kelpie pups back to Toronto.
Next up is to bring in organic maple syrup.
The enterprising exploration never stops: the three-year old brumby female is first step in a possible breeding program, working with another “rescue” stallion from the Guy Fawkes Heritage Horse Association.
Amid all the busyness there is gratitude, among other things for the abattoirs at Booyong and Casino that accept stock from small holders.
“How lucky we are to have access to those facilities?” Greg asks.
And for local support. It’s been a “very, very steep learning curve” but they say they’ve been blessed to have had unfailing encouragement from their neighbours.
“We made every mistake,” Alison says, including once losing a whole herd of cows in the bush, and needing to enlist the help of the “real” farmers nearby.
Now the Cromwells are “real” too and having fun at it.
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