Where do you live?
We live in the outback town of Birdsville (population 100). David has lived in Birdsville all his life, and Nell was raised in South Africa. We were married in 1974 and have six children.
David’s maternal great-grandparents were married in Birdsville in the late 1880s, just a few years after Birdsville was established. His father Bill worked at Cordillo Downs as a station hand before he purchased their first property, a small part of Adria Downs Station, in 1939. From these humble beginnings, we now own and operate five properties covering 30,000 square kilometres (3 million hectares) of certified organic land in the pristine Channel Country grasslands region of central Australia, including Cordillo Downs and the rest of Adria Downs. We also have a sixth farm in south east Queensland.
Living here has real challenges. We are very remote – 1,600 kilometres from the state capital – there are lots of unsealed roads and extreme weather. All of this means we have to be adaptable and work with the environment – you really have to be in tune with nature and not fight against it.
One of the great things about living here is that Birdsville is a hub for visitors to outback Australia. Many of these visitors drive right through our properties on their trips through the Simpson Desert, or they come for events like the annual Birdsville Races or Big Red Bash, which is held on Adria Downs. It’s unusual for visitors to have such open access to farms, but we welcome anyone to come here to appreciate the work we do to produce organic cattle and to see what makes the Channel Country tick.
We live in one of the world’s largest inland river basins, which means all the nutrients deposited by floods over millions of years are still here – they haven’t been washed out to sea. The result is the fertility of this land and variety of pasture is astonishing – it’s desert, but cattle fatten here faster than almost anywhere in Australia in the right conditions. And we really do think the varied diet including saltbush makes the flavour of our beef unique – good beef should be an expression of the land it comes from, like fine wine.
Why do you supply cattle to OBE Organic?
OBE Organic has been great for cattle producers. We were involved in establishing OBE Organic, and it has given us much more stable prices compared to the roller-coaster returns producers historically received.
We also like the connection OBE Organic gives us to consumers around the world. If you’re going to dedicate your life to something – like raising organic cattle – then it’s important to know what people expect of you. OBE lets us do that.
Why is producing organic food important to you?
We think it’s the right thing for animals and the environment and the families we sell to – especially children who are exposed to lots of chemicals and additives in their food.