Taking paddock to plate produce their own way on the Darling Downs of Queensland
Story by Jessica Rea
Photography by Oak and Mist
Nestled between the rolling hills of the Goomburra Valley, on the Darling Downs of Queensland, lies 200 acres of grazing country, bought by the Lax family in October 2013. James Lax and his wife Jacinta, had plans to establish a boutique equine agistment facility there. At the time, feed was plentiful in their paddocks and the creek that neighboured their house yard flowed lazily by. It was a picturesque scene that made them immediately fall in love with the place. Before long, James and Jacinta were adding to their herd, in more ways than one, with the birth of their eldest daughter in 2017. From then on life got rather busy for the Lax family.
The onset of the drought in 2016/2017 changed their plans somewhat, as it did with most farms across Queensland. As the feed dried off, the reality of running a horse agistment business seemed less likely on their 200 acres of land. One day, whilst James was at work and off-farm, Jacinta made her way to Warwick for the weekly cattle sale. Encouraged by a few helpful regulars, she was drawn to two poddy calves and thought they would be the perfect addition to their property. She snapped them up and quickly informed James that he must organise transportation for them before he had time to talk her out of her decision. It was these two poddy calves that would start an entirely new business journey for the Lax family, one that would celebrate all the best parts of rural life.
And so began Lazy Cow Farm. James and Jacinta found that the land by the creek and close to the house was a great spot to feed their poddy calves. They quickly added to their herd, investing in Hereford breeders as their land moved out of drought in late 2019. Early on it was clear to James and Jacinta that their 200 acre property would not sustain a conventional commercial herd. So, the question became, how to diversify their operation to keep their land as profitable as possible? How could they tailor their product to suit demand? And it just so happened that demand for paddock to plate meat was on the rise.
Jacinta put her creativity to good use, already well practiced through her wedding coordination and event hire business Lace and Barrel. They worked on a business model that would cut out the middleman in the major supermarket chains, and instead take their product directly to their customer base. By directly marketing the produce in this way, James and Jacinta could have more control in the pricing of their meat. They could produce smaller numbers in a boutique style, selling directly to market through their website, their farm shop and at local markets.
Within this paddock to plate business model, it is important for consumers to know where their meat is coming from and what is has been raised on. Meat produced at Lazy Cow Farm is pasture raised and ethically and sustainably produced. James and Jacinta engaged the help of a local butcher to process their meat and to teach them all about the best bits of each cut, meaning they know their product inside and out every step of the way, from paddock to plate.
As their business and their farm began to grow, so did their family, with two boys and another little girl added to the herd before long. James and Jacinta also branched out into lamb, pork, pasture raised chickens and eggs, all in a response to the popularity of their paddock to plate approach. Very quickly, deliveries to Brisbane became a weekly endeavour for the pair, as well as co-founding and then attending the Warwick Farmers Markets each Saturday morning. Orders through their website and through the farm shop, keep them busy throughout the week.
The Lax family welcome, with open arms and a touch of chaos, visitors to Lazy Cow Farm who would like to get to know more about their farming practices and the life of the animals before they reach the plate. Upon your first visit to Lazy Cow Farm, you may notice the number of animals that have quickly become pets. In the garden you might bump into Pete the sheep, or a lamb that has been brought up to the house for an extra bottle of milk, eagerly taken on by the kids and most likely will become another friend.
A schoolteacher by trade, Jacinta is committed to educating children on the agricultural industry. You may find droves of children exploring the paddocks and learning all the essentials of rearing cattle, sheep and pigs, exposing urban kids to Australian farming. Not stopping there, Lazy Cow Farm is expanding into agritourism, once again making the most of the growing popularity and appeal of the bush to tourists. This winter, Lazy Cow Farm have teamed up with Toowoomba based winery, Rosalie House, to host the Lazy Long Lunch on-farm in the Goomburra Valley. The lunch will hero produce raised at Lazy Cow Farm, and will be paired with produce sourced from within 100kms of Lazy Cow Farm. This includes Gin from Toowoomba based distillery, Hopscotch Gin, and wine produced by the vines at Rosalie House. The Lazy Long Lunch is assisted by the tourism drive, Jumpers and Jazz, Warwick. The lunch will be set within the stunning grounds of Lazy Cow Farm and visitors will enjoy a spectacular outlook of the rolling hills of the Goomburra Valley. They will be entertained by a live jazz band and be treated to the culinary wizardry of the team from Rosalie House.
Driven by a love of their farming community, the agritourism projects at Lazy Cow Farm showcase the beauty in farming, albeit in a polished manner by Jacinta’s very creative eye. Events such as the Lazy Long Lunch create conversations around ethically and locally sourced produce, as well as sustainability and the realities of living and working in rural communities. Sustainability is something high on the priority list at Lazy Cow Farm, especially when you are talking with James.
Understanding that their 200 acres cannot support too large a herd, James and Jacinta do everything they can to make their land as productive as possible for as long as possible. This means researching and investing in sustainable practices such as mob cell grazing. The meat produced at Lazy Cow Farm is also as ethically produced as possible, being pasture raised. To maintain this standard, mobs of cattle and flocks of sheep are kept on the smaller side. Direct marketing their meat enables their paddock to plate business model to succeed, with smaller quantities of meat produced reaching a fair price, delivered straight to the consumer.
Taking an innovative approach to meat production requires bravery, passion, and dedication. Something that James and Jacinta display in abundance. Their approach to their business endeavours reflects the imagination, creativity, and energy of their young family. James summarised their approach to business opportunities quite succinctly; just say yes and we’ll work out a plan later. By just saying yes, they have achieved a startling amount in just 18 short months of business, direct marketing their produce. Now, as they continue to push forward, with the help of four, albeit small workers, nothing can slow them down.