The route to market for the piggies raised by Phil Outtram and Selina Smith is anything but conventional – but in the best possible way. This hard working and determined couple have carved themselves both a business and a lifestyle on Tassie’s east coast in a glorious location where bush, river and sea collide.
Phil and Selina farm free range heritage breed pigs on their aptly named Long Name Farm. Their picturesque 45 acre property at Little Swanport takes its name from the indigenous term for the region. At 37 letters it’s the longest recorded place name in the country. TEE.BE.LEB.BER.RER.MEN.NAPE.BONE.YER.MEN.NAN.YER is a ‘place where a moving stream flows into a large estuary surrounded by hills’ – the perfect description of Long Name Farm’s stunning coastal grazing property on the mouth of the Little Swanport River.
“Our philosophy is to produce a premium product but to do so in a sustainable and ethical way,” explains Phil. “Everyone should be able to enjoy full flavoured meat.”
It’s not hard to see the passion that these two share. Long Name Farm is set up with the pigs in mind. “We pretty much leave them to their own devices,” says Phil. “They love to dig and turn up the rocks out in the paddocks whilst they’re foraging for insects. We’ve left the wattle for them too, you’ll see them having a good old scratch against them and they’ll nibble on any foliage they can reach.”
The pigs they are talking about are Saddlebacks and Berkshires – heritage breeds that are favoured for the flavoursome meat of yesteryear. Being hardy, good forages and having strong maternal instincts, both varieties have taken easily to the conditions at Long Name Farm. They also produce meat that is well suited to a variety of purposes. “We strive to use the entire pig,” says Selina. “We don’t want any waste, so we’ve found a use for everything.”
It’s free ranging at its best. The sows enjoy large paddocks that are periodically rested for at least six months at a time. The piglets are left to roam the farm at their will, easily scampering under their mother’s fences to explore the bushland. “They’re free to range across the farm,” explains Selina. “Piglets don’t go far from their mother so there’s no real need for us to worry.”
In intensive piggeries breeding is almost continuous, with young weaned at four weeks. Here at Long Name Farm, the piglets are left to self-wean which usually occurs at around three months of age. Following that, the sows are left to rest for a couple of months and regain any lost condition before their next meeting with a boar. “There’s no strict science in what we do,” Phil says easily. “We’re guided by each sow and her health. It’s trial and error and it’s about what works best for the pigs.”
This pair share a deep connection to the land. The son of a shearer, Phil naturally followed in his father’s footsteps. It’s clear he’s no stranger to hard work and can turn his hand to almost anything – fix anything, build anything and do anything. He’s an energetic jack-of-all-trades. “I came to Tassie about aged nine,” explains Phil. “I grew up on farms so I’m used to animals being slaughtered,” he replies when questioned as to whether he ever gets attached to his charges. “Pigs have a great temperament and it’s always a little sad when they go to the abattoir, but that’s life… and I know they’ve had a really good one here.”
You don’t have to dig too deep for evidence of the level of care Phil invests in his animals. There’s Sandy the rescue sow who’s clearly one of his favourites, and he’s on first name terms with his four boars – Harold, Brian, James and Pumba. A couple of current residents are extra friendly, having been nursed back from the brink as sickly piglets to go on to enjoy their life outdoors.
Phil talks openly and fondly of his partnership with Selina, “We’ve been together about seven years and I feel we’re in a really fortunate situation with our land and the pig farm. Selina is a dynamo worker and I’d be lost without her support.”
Born and bred in Tassie, Selina reflects fondly on her childhood, “I grew up the daughter of a lighthouse keeper. I love the land too, but I also really love islands.” At just one day old, Selina was whisked back to Swan Island by her parents – a granite outcrop off Tasmania’s north eastern coast. “We moved a lot with dad and did stints at all kinds of lighthouses… Maatsuyker, Tasman, Eddystone Point, Low Head and Bruny Island. I was a typical sunburnt Tassie kid, always outside. Looking back it’s kind of funny…I’m a real traveller at heart but it’s kind of ironic as I grew up so isolated. It’s interesting where life takes you.”
Nutrition is a critical factor in their success, with the pigs’ diet heavily influencing the flavour of the pork. Phil mixes his own organic feed – a special brew of locally sourced wheat, barley, peas and fishmeal. Close partnerships with other local enterprises mean he is often making best use of waste products. “We soak all our feed in cheese whey from a local gourmet cheese producer. We believe it’s a valuable protein source and makes the feed more digestible,” says Phil.
“We really encourage the pigs to forage,” adds Selina. “They pick up valuable trace elements from the soil and it helps impart our own special Little Swanport flavour. We sow seed into the ground to encourage them to dig.” The pigs are also spoilt with salt sweepings from a nearby sea salt producer. “The pigs love salt licks,” says Phil. “We use the local sea salt to dry cure our loins for bacon too.”
The combination of excellent nutrition, care and the free range nature of the farm is making a clear impact on their product. Since the first pigs arrived on site in 2014, Long Name Farm has quickly gained a reputation for quality. They are in demand with top end restaurants and have recently hit another first by having to put a few customers on a waiting list. Both Phil and Selina recently took time out to hand over their 2017 Sprout Small Producer Award to another Tassie meat producer and couldn’t be happier to share their knowledge at the same time.
“The Berkshires are well known for their fat marbling and are often called the wagyu of the pigs,” explain Phil. “It’s always a battle to grow a free range pig with the right balance of fat and muscle. What we do here is labour intensive, but we’re getting the results and we love what we do.”
The pair are constantly watching their stock for impending births. “You can tell when a sow is preparing for the birth, her udder usually drops and she starts nesting,” says Phil. “They usually find a quiet place and will burrow into the scrub, behind a log, or into the straw we provide for them. Then we try to leave them alone as much as possible. I just keep an eye on them as it’s pretty common for a sow to roll and crush a couple of piglets.”
Long Name Farm is literally crafted into this corner of the state by Phil and Selina’s own hands. They’ve built the fences, purpose designed their gravity fed watering system, and even sourced waste tanks from a local fish farm to build weatherproof shelters. Recycling is everywhere. A prototype ‘pigloo’ is just one of Phil’s many inventions, “This is designed to give the pigs some respite from the summer heat. It stays really cool in there and you’ll see a whole lot of them pile in on a hot day. They love it.”
This is undoubtedly a labour of love for Phil and Selina. Fittingly, they live on site in a converted 1940’s shearing shed – a beautifully renovated ‘work in progress’ that provides shelter from the hard work in the paddocks beyond. The original floorboards have been stripped bare and are set off by simple, fresh ‘Hog Bristle’ white walls. Sharing a cuppa around their farmhouse table and listening to the starlings nesting in the roof, it’s not hard to get excited about the future here. As Phil says, “Our first two pigs were called Pork Chop and Sausage. I think we’ve done pretty well since then.”
Long Name Farm supplies free range pork to many of Tasmania’s top restaurants. Grab some yourself by ordering their ‘Pig in a Box’ – Farmer Phil personally delivers all orders within Tasmania. You can also fill your fridge by visiting the Farm Gate Market in Hobart on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of every month. Phil loves a chat so allow plenty of time!
Find out more at www.longnamefarm.com.au