Christine Ross has lived at Macclesfield in the Yarra Valley for 45 years. Hers is a story about very special pork.
Initially Christine kept goats but in 1990, with a deep interest in the remarkable qualities of rare breeds, Large Black Pigs arrived and the ten acre farm became Yarra Valley Free Range Pork. In 2020 a further 11 acres were added and a regenerative farming philosophy sees the creek and other portions of the farm retained as natural bushland. This is a farm with both a heart and a purpose.
With only a handful of pig varieties left in Australia, large scale animal and crop production is geared towards maximum output at cheapest cost, focusing on just a few varieties. It’s easier to process almost identically-sized and shaped animals but such farming brings with it the dangers of decreased diversity. Large Blacks, the variety enjoying the lush pasture at Yarra Valley Free Range farm, are classified by the Rare Breeds Trust as endangered. Four other pig varieties have been lost entirely.
There are important reasons to support and enhance small scale meat production. Like heirloom crops, rare breed animals are a critically important gene pool. In addition to their inherent beauty, rare breeds express adaptation to location, diversity and the wisdom of generations of farmers, values increasingly necessary in a world requiring meaningful responses to climate change. The University of WA is studying rare breeds and how the genetic diversity of livestock in Australia can help underpin a food-secure future.
Yarra Valley Free Range Pork’s production is deeply thoughtful and humane. Assisted by daughter Sally and grandson Nathan, who you’ll meet at several #vfmaaccredited farmers’ markets, Christine’s production is limited, with just one pig being turned into delicious meat each week.
Supporting small-scale farming isn’t just good for creating incredible meals, it’s also insurance for ourselves and our children: an important part of "being a good ancestor".