Ten years on, tree change brings home the bacon

A TREE-CHANGE to the opposite end of the world a decade ago has produced a family farm operating with sustainable management, thriving with regenerative practices and producing some of the best apple juice in the competitive Huon region.

Our Mates Farm is set out across 40ha just outside the township of Geeveston. Thirty Wiltshire horned sheep patrol the hillside paddocks while a handful of free-range Wessex Saddleback and Large Black boars and sows laze in the green grass. As well as some 20 head of low line Angus cattle and a smattering of chickens, the property is the epitome of mixed enterprise farming.

Matt Tack and Coreen Ung landed on the property almost a decade ago after making their move back home to Australia after a decade of working in the UK. “We just wanted something completely different and just landed on Tassie after some friends recommended us to get down here for a look,” Mr Tack said. “We’d never been here before and yet it ticked the boxes for what we were looking for.”

Matt had grown up in Northern Queensland growing pumpkins and watermelons with his father before he and Coreen made their way to the Northern Hemisphere. “We first got the idea to look into farming of our own after we’d tried bacon from a farmers market in London,” he said. “The flavours were fantastic and we were able to trace the product back to the farm it came from. “Coreen and I had both always loved our food so this really stuck with us.”

On their first visit to the Huon Valley they fell in love with a property blanketed in neglected apple trees. That once rundown orchard has remained their focus to this day. Trimming the orchard size to a manageable 9ha, they harvest a healthy 80 to 120 tonnes of cider and dessert apples. “When we first arrived we had a lot of help with managing our trees from Andrew Smith and we’ve still kept that relationship strong today.”

Our Mates Farm sells its cider apples to Willie Smith while also distributing dessert varieties to restaurants across the state alongside 15 to 20 further heritage varieties produced for supermarkets and retailers. The couple has also dipped their toes into the drinks market themselves. They produce organic apple juice with a range of flavours matching the apple varieties that are offered in retail stores. The cattle, sheep and pigs are sold to restaurants, butchers and as meat boxes directly to customers. “We usually sell over 100 pigs per year through boxed meats and to butchers in the state,” Matt said. “They’re certainly the biggest part of our livestock business.”

Further to this, each mob provides a purpose to the farm beyond their meat. “Our ewes are our lawnmowers when we haven’t got apples off the trees. “It keeps the grass and the weeds down and gives them a bit of shelter. “Rotational grazing is important for us to build the nutrients in our soil up again. “We tend to keep them separate but we do utilise the cattle to provide a little more nutritional input for the soil if it needs it.”

The areas on the property are constantly being monitored to further the nutrient level underfoot after so many years of hard farming on the land. “In our time here we’ve become very passionate about biodiversity, soil health and nutrient cycling. “It’s also come to be what we can do on the farm about climate change.”

Solar power systems are used for irrigation, while they are proud of effective doubling the soil carbon from 2.8 per cent to 4.8 per cent. “That’s just through livestock rotation and land management,” Matt said.