Living life on the family farm.
Natalie and Wayne, together with their children Emilee (11) and Brandon (9) are living the dream on their mixed farm, Fernvale Acres located north of Melbourne, at Arthurs Creek.
The name Fernvale was established in 1867 by early settler Pierce Brennan. He named the property Fernvale because of the endless ferns that ran along the creek boundary. Prior to the Bezzina family arriving in February 2019 the property was well known as Brennan Park. That name didn’t sit with the family and it was decided to pay homage to the original name of the property with their own touch of difference. After a few nights of brainstorming as a family, the farm was named Fernvale Acres.
Farming is a combined effort for the family as both Natalie and Wayne work full time. They dedicate all the hours they can to working on the farm. Wayne and Brandon mainly handle the cattle, farm maintenance and stock management, while Natalie and Emilee focus on their organic veggie garden, upcoming market garden project, sustainable practices and regenerative farming research. The family work together in all areas of the farm regardless of the areas mentioned.
Before settling at Fernvale Acres the Bezzina’s sold the family farmlet (10 acres) to travel the east coast of Australia for six months, living off grid. The adventure gave the family an opportunity to experience farm life on a large scale where they volunteered to work on a 76,000 acre farm. It was here that Wayne helped mustered 3600 head of cattle over three days, and the family were now eager to begin their new farming journey when they returned home
“We shared the same ethics and farming values as Provenir, with relation to animal management, carbon impact, and regenerative agriculture. We’re also passionate about knowing where our own food is sourced and were intrigued by Provenir’s digital provenance platform which provides full traceability for our beef. Provenir have a real paddock to plate vision.”Wayne Bezzina
Farm fast facts
|Farm Name||Fernvale Acres|
|Farm Size||110 acres|
|How many cattle?||40|
|Who works on the farm?||Wayne, Natalie, Emilee (11yo) and Brandon (9yo)|
|Favourite beef meal?||A Maltese dish (our heritage) called meat and potato bake. The meat simmers for hours on end with a combination of simply potatoes, tomatoes, onion, herbs and stock…the meat just melts in your mouth!|
|Why Provenir?||We believe that the way we farm makes a significant impact to the taste and quality of our beef, and it’s time that our way of farming is recognised. |
We also care about where our food is sourced, ensuring it’s as close to its original form as possible, free from sprays and all nasties. I feel that people should have the same opportunity with their beef.
Through the traceability that Provenir provides people can find out about how we farm and also know where their beef is sourced.
Why we farm
We love all things associated with farming.
“We love the many different connections we have with the land – it grounds you. We love all things associated with farming, the livestock, the land, the change in seasons and the challenges, wins and experiences associated with all of them.”Bezzina Family
Wayne is his happiest when in the paddock surrounded by his cattle. He has been on the land for over 35 years and with farming in his blood, he draws much inspiration from his Dad.
For Wayne farming is his life and second love after his family. He loves caring for his livestock, watching the cattle grow from birth or purchase, establishing a mutual respect, and seeing them through to the finishing and processing stage. It’s a rewarding experience for him in more ways than one.
“Farming is my natural therapy. It has taught me so much and has introduced me to an incredible community of like minded and inspiring people who love to live and source naturally”Natalie
Natalie loves that farming provides endless opportunities to be present with nature. Her number one inspiration was her Dad, who was always in the vegetable garden and it’s where Natalie acquired a passion for growing food for the family and being self sufficient.
“I love that I can have my animals and have so much room to do all the natural things. I love picking fresh berries and creating our adventure club along the creek and I love that my mum and dad show me how to do so many things.” – Emilee
Her Mum is her second and continual source of inspiration, with her passion for growing plants and veggies. Natalie is in awe of her Mum’s skill in propagation and composting and is certain that her Mum’s gorgeous garden is as beautiful as it is because of the love she puts into it. In recent years, Paul West from the series ‘River Cottage’ drove the family to really look into sustainable farming practices and it was a teaching platform for her children to understand the life cycle on the farm.
“I love the farm because we can have so many cows and animals and I can be with them everyday. I love all our animals and I love going on my motorbike all the time too. I have so much room to ride my bike.“Brandon
Sarah attended the University of Melbourne, where she met Tom, and graduated with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Hons) and a Bachelor of Commerce. Sarah then worked with NAB in their Agribusiness team for several years, before her and Tom returned to the family business in 2009, when they moved to the property Mount Hamilton, which they developed and loved for ten years.
In early 2020, they decided it was time to move and said goodbye to Mount Hamilton and moved their young family and farming business to ‘Chatsworth House’.
“Our vision is to bring together people, plants and animals for a better future”Tom & Sarah Whinney
Evolving together as regenerative farmers
Fernvale was once a sheep and dairy farm and for many years it was a children’s animal farm. Wayne and Natalie purchased the farm prior to their travels and moved into the farm on February 14th 2019 – a valentines gift for each other.
For both Natalie and Wayne farming runs in the family, they were both living on family farms by the time they were teenagers. The practice of self-sufficiency however was instilled from an earlier age, with both Natalie and Wayne having memories of their parents raising chickens, pigeons or rabbits on their respective suburban blocks!
Since settling at Fernvale Acres their time has been one of learning and evolving, especially for Wayne and his farming practices.
Natalie was determined not to use any form of pesticides or chemicals on the farm and started researching traditional, natural ways of farming – what they now know to be called Regenerative Agriculture.
The couple may have not seen eye to eye initially, and there may have been a few heated conversations along the way. Natalie’s research into the importance of soil conditioning through natural methods however has provided positive results.
While it hasn’t always been easy for Wayne to adapt from more conventional farming methods he was accustomed to, over the past 18 months he has recognised the importance of natural pasture management and the positive impact regenerative practices are having on their farm.
“The focus on animal wellbeing is true to our way, we value the relationships that will be made between Provenir and ourselves and that the company has a true understanding on fair pricing for cattle and the respect for farmers.”Natalie Bezzina
Docile and placid cattle
The Bezzina family raise Angus X cattle and have a Limousine bull called Sampson which they raised from the time he was an 8 month old calf. Sampson is huge in stature but he is nothing but a friendly giant, while the other cattle are docile and placid.
The Bezzina’s typically raise 30-40 steers depending of the season and breed a few of their own. They chose Angus cattle for their calm temperament and good eating qualities, the cattle are grass-fed and grow well, offering a good return for the family.
Following their experience with Provenir, the Bezzina’s plan to grow out more cattle to meet the desired weight and be processed on-farm with Provenir.
Fernvale Acres is also home to a flock of chickens which supplies the family with eggs, a number of honey bee hives, a few sheep and three growing pigs which will be made into Natalie’s much loved homemade salami.
Calling in the cattle.
The Bezzina’s mingle with their cattle daily, talking to them as they go about checking over the herd. The cattle are calm and familiar with the whole family, including the kids who are always by Natalie and Wayne’s side when they feed or move the animals.
The kids love calling in the cattle, using the same call the cattle respond to everyone in the family almost instantly and will come in from across the paddock or over the hill, following the sound.
In the yards Wayne also uses his voice to move the cattle, a reassuring pat on the rump encourages the cattle to move through the yards and they do so relaxed and willingly. The kids work confidently around the calm cattle on a foundation of mutual trust and respect.
Working with nature, not against it.
Working with nature, the Bezzina family only hold as many cattle as the season and land will allow, being mindful of not overstocking to the detriment of both land and livestock.
Stock is rotated around the existing paddocks to help improve the soil, and there are plans to utilise chook manure in the future, to naturally fertilise the land.
The family are currently working to build new fences and manage access to water for the cattle. Dividing paddocks will enable more frequent stock rotation, helping to keep the cattle healthy, well fed and also regenerate the landscape.
No herbicides, pesticides or sprays are used on the property – Natalie simply won’t allow it. She is always researching and finding alternative natural solutions for anything that presents a challenge.
“There is a natural alternative to everything, we just have to find it!”Natalie Bezzina