A big increase in demand for natural, locally produced goods sold through farmers markets has spawned a baby boom at Brooklands Free Range Farm at Blampied.
Last week farmers Jono Hurst and Nats Hardy welcomed 32 new Berkshire piglets from three sows within 24 hours.
The couple now have about 120 young pigs aged from a week up to nine months old plus 15 breeding sows along with British White Cattle for beef production.
"Berkshire pigs are considered a rare or heritage breed but we like them because they are very good pigs for outdoor free range farming and they also produce a nice meat with intramuscular marbling," he said.
The couple practice regenerative farming on their 148 acres in which the pigs eat and turn over the pasture, their manure fertilises it and after they move to the next paddock the field is reseeded with grains, grasses and root vegetables.
Mr Hurst said demand for their pork, beef, bacon, ham and sausages which are sold mostly through farmers markets had doubled since March so on-farm production also had to increase.
The pigs are raised until about 10 months before being processed.
"We try and have sows sow every month or two so we have a constant supply coming through but we don't normally get three over a weekend," he said.
Most farmers markets have been able to continue trading as food-only markets and with strict regulation during the COVID lockdowns and the couple usually attend three regular markets in Melbourne as well as markets at Daylesford, Creswick and Trentham.
"Demand has been double what we would normally see," he said. "I think a lot of people want to know who they are buying food from now and a lot of people are feeling more comfortable buying at farmers market outdoors rather than in a supermarket."
The businesses has also seen a big increase in direct sales and delivery.
Mr Hurst said about 10 to 15 per cent of their business pre-COVID was supplying meat to local restaurants but the vast majority of their sales had always been through farmers markets.
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"We've found we've been selling everything at one market whereas normally we'd sell it over maybe two or three markets so we've had to increase production as best we can, hence the whole lot of piglets we have now.
"We've noticed customers are really appreciative of what we are doing and they want to support local a lot more."
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