The Jonai (aka Tammi, Stuart, Oscar, Antigone & Atticus Jonas) tired of choosing between saving the world or savouring it, so figured out a way to do both.
In May 2011, we left our rather farm-like suburban Melbourne environs behind, took a shortcut across America to glean wisdom from a range of ethical farmers (including lunatic farmer Joel Salatin of Polyface), and landed some months later on Jonai Farms, 69 acres at Eganstown, just outside the beautiful town of Daylesford, to raise happy, tasty, heritage-breed pastured pigs.
Jonai Farms enacts food sovereignty, which asserts everyone's right to culturally appropriate, nutritious and delicious food grown in ecologically-sound and ethical ways, and peoples' right to collectively determine our own food and agriculture systems.
We are a resilient, diverse family farm that focuses on respecting the ‘pigness of the pig’ and using animals for optimum soil health as multiple species are rotated around the farm to grow fertility and diversity on the paddocks.
Passionate about agroecology, we've weaned ourselves off purpose-grown grain for the pigs, reducing feed costs and creating a net ecological benefit by diverting organic waste from landfill, and exiting the agro-industrial model of segregating feed production from livestock farming.
After being the first farm in Australia to crowdfund major infrastructure in 2013 to build a licensed butcher’s shop on the farm, we succeeded again in 2014 and built a licensed curing room and commercial kitchen to make farmstead cured meats and a range of charcuterie, as well as bone stocks and lard-based soap, to ultimately deliver a full nose to tail no-waste offering. ‘Waste’ from the boning room is processed and fed out to a small flock of Australorp laying hens to complete the nutrient cycle on the farm, taking us from 'paddock to plate' to 'paddock to paddock'.
Jonai Farms is a thriving example of community-supported agriculture (CSA) - a locally-based solidarity economy membership model – with a 12-year waiting list for Melbourne (and a bit shorter for regional memberships).
A famous philosopher once said that those who control the means of production control the world – it’s time the people wrest that control back to into the hands of local communities and farms like Jonai!
Continue to learn as we do on The Farmer and the Butcher!
Some people (even smart ones) have asked: ‘but if you’re just going to kill it and eat it anyway, why does it matter what sort of life the pig had?’ We abhor cruelty to animals, and we believe they are a nutritious and delicious part of the human diet. As with many other free-range growers, our pigs should only have what our farming hero Joel Salatin calls ‘one bad day’, and they shouldn’t even know it’s coming.
In their daily lives, we respect what Salatin calls ‘the pigness of the pig’, and our animals are free to roam, root, and wallow as they would in the wild. We think it’s unconscionable to choose meat from an animal that has lived its life in pain and misery so it could end up on our plates, and if the ethics of the matter don’t win you over, the flavour will.
If you check out any of the Australian free-range pork producers listed on Tammi Jonas: Food Ethics or FlavourCrusader, you’ll find far superior flavours to intensively-farmed pork. Hopefully as the number of pastured-pig farmers increases around Australia and the rest of the world we can all enjoy ethical, quality pork that has travelled few miles so that we also decrease our carbon footprints, all while supporting local farmers – everybody wins!
Our own decision to eat only meat from animals raised ethically is what ultimately led to our decision to join the growing movement of small farmers who place animal welfare first. We are grateful to those who’ve gone before us, and the generosity of the many small producers who have taught us so much as we've embraced a life of farming. We feel honoured and privileged to be amongst their ranks in contributing positively to the world’s food systems.
Finally, just because you found us or one of the other beautiful ethical livestock farmers flourishing across Australia doesn’t mean we want you to eat meat with abandon. As Slow Meat has coined, ‘eat better meat, less.’
Jonai Core Values & Objectives
We value the pigness of the pig
We value holistic decision making – ecological/social/financial
We value an aromatically & aesthetically pleasing farm
We value direct connections with our customers & suppliers (social, ecological, financial)
We value so-called waste material for re-use &/or feed on the farm
We value labour & strive to do things for ourselves
We value patience – nature takes time, & patience tastes delicious
To raise animals ethically, ecologically, & economically
To control as much of our supply chain as possible
To sell directly via: farm gate, households, restaurants
To be a model and a voice for regenerative, ethical agriculture
What exactly are your pigs fed?
Our pigs enjoy somewhere between 10 and 20% of their diet by grazing and rooting in the soil in their paddocks. They’re also fed spent brewers’ grain from Holgate Brewery in Woodend, and whatever 'waste' Stuart can scavenge from the system - e.g. seconds of eggs from a local pastured egg producer, cheese from hospitality suppliers or corn from a whiskey distillery, it's all great fodder in an agroecological model. (Our cattle also enjoy occasional rations of the spent brewers’ grain, hence ‘beer-fed beef’.) We are working to grow more of their feed here on the farm, through planting fodder crops (such as root crops, brassicas, sunflowers, lupins, and cereal rye) in paddocks that are resting, and they are also fed seconds and windfall from our region when available such as potatoes, strawberries, oats, apples, acorns, chestnuts, and early-season colostrum-rich milk from a neighbouring dairy.
Do you castrate your pigs?
Yes. After an initial year of choosing not to castrate, we faced issues with boars reaching sexual maturity early and impregnating their sisters, as well as some boar taint in the meat. As our pigs are a slow-growing rare breed, they don’t reach a good marketable size until 7 or 8 months, by which time they are well and truly sexually mature. As we prefer to keep our pigs in family groups from birth until slaughter (rather than separating the boars out by around 3 months old), we have chosen to castrate and keep them together in their litters. Stuart performs the castration, and he was trained first by an experienced free-range pig farmer and then by our vet to be deemed competent at the procedure. Our decision to castrate was documented by the series we did with Radio National Bush Telegraph if you’d like to learn more.
I’m worried about how animals are treated at abattoirs – can you please explain what happens to your pigs, and how you ensure they are subjected to minimal stress at the time of slaughter?
We take our pigs to an abattoir about an hour from the farm in a trailer with a rubber mat and bedded with hay, avoiding the hottest periods of the day during summer. As we only take between 4 and 8 pigs at a time, they are unloaded immediately through to the stunning chamber without being kept in the holding pens with any other pigs. Our abattoir uses CO2 for stunning, which is considered best practice as the pigs are rendered unconscious within 30 seconds, before being slaughtered by a cut to the neck. We have witnessed the entire process and are confident that this is the best method (so long as regulations don’t allow us to slaughter on farm). We are also now working with a group of other small-scale producers to re-establish a local abattoir for pastured livestock like ours.
Are you certified organic?
We consider ourselves certified by our community. We practice radical transparency – anyone is welcome to come and tour the paddocks and ask us any questions you like at any time (though we do close and try to take Sundays off where possible). As our focus is on increasing the amount of feed from so-called waste streams such as the spent brewers’ grain or other agricultural seconds, we couldn’t certify organic if we wanted to, but we’re primarily concerned with localising our production system and moving away from purpose-grown animal feed being trucked in from elsewhere.