Written by Lauren Hauptfleisch
Meet the man behind our regenerative farming initiatives
We are thrilled to announce that we are the first farm in the Cape Winelands to be awarded world-renowned environmental and animal welfare certification from A Greener World (AGW). Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW is the only higher animal welfare certification in South Africa and the standards of this programme was developed with the help of veterinary and farming experts from across the globe to encourage and maximize high-welfare farm management that is practicable.
“We’re proud to certify farms like Boschendal that have demonstrated their commitment to transparency and verified, high-welfare, farming practices. These stewards of the countryside are building a greener world while elevating the market and level the playing field.” – AGW Executive Director, Tozie Zokufa
Who’s the man that made it happen?
In light of this accolade, we want to honour Farmer Jason Carroll and his exceptional team for all the hard work and dedication that they’ve put into taking care of our animals and the land they farm on. Jason has been at the forefront of change in livestock farming and he’s been a passionate farmer at Boschendal for nearly 6 years.
Jason worked as a farmer and butcher in the Eastern Cape and his journey towards sustainable farming started when his wife fell pregnant with their little girl. He recalls reading an article that links the alarmingly early onset of puberty amongst girls to the unnatural, hormone-induced food that both mother and child consume. Determined to find a solution that will provide a healthier alternative for his growing family, Jason managed to find a farming model with the potential to change our world for the better. His approach aligned perfectly with Boschendal’s vision of sustainable and ethical farming and he was soon brought on board to take the lead.
How do we farm?
Under Jason’s leadership, the farming project grew from 120 Black Angus cattle to a herd of between 500 and 700 cattle with approximately 150 calves being born per year. The farming model that he follows is based on collaboration with these wonderful animals – they graze at leisure in wide open fields and in return their activity helps our team to restore the soil, which is our most valuable asset. Jason and his team work together with the animals, bonded by mutual respect, as it was intended. While producing high quality grass-fed beef is certainly something we strive for, the emphasis is on why we do it and this greatly influences the how. Jason takes his lead from nature and bases his decisions on the principles of natural selection that would apply in the wild, all to ensure our animals enjoy a life worth living on the farm.
In addition to our Black Angus Cattle, our layer hens and forest-raised Duroc pigs also contribute to the regenerative farming project on the farm. Our highly intelligent Duroc pig families roam around in the forests, digging up unwanted roots from invasive plants in order to help us restore the natural flow of water from the mountains. Our pigs have never seen a slab of concrete, get to roll around in the mud and take their naps under the oak trees. Having been a cattle farmer his whole life, Jason admits he was pleasantly surprised by these magnificent creatures and now finds plenty of enjoyment sharing his mornings with them in the forest.
Our layer hens get moved around the farm in mobile chicken tractors and follow in the footsteps of the cattle. Besides eating all unwanted parasites and weeds, the chickens spread the manure from our Black Angus cattle all over the land while leaving their own trail of nitrogen-rich manure behind. A big bonus from having layer hens do the work, is the incredibly nutritious free-range eggs we get to harvest and enjoy. Although the chickens started out as happy helpers in the fields, egg production for our restaurants and Farm Shop has become a big part of our business too.
All of these animals play an important part in the process of becoming more sustainable and building a legacy of regenerative farming in the winelands, but the most important link in the chain that can’t be overlooked, is Jason’s right-hand man, Ralph Valentine. Ralph is his eyes and ears on the farm and assists him in leading the incredible livestock team without whom none of this progress would be possible.
“They understand the way we farm and without them, this entire operation would fall apart. They have mastered a unique skill set that can’t be taught elsewhere and they’ve learnt it all here on the farm. In 11 years as a farmer, these guys are the most diligent and hard-working team I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.”
Where do we go from here?
Being able to prove that this model works, even in the big leagues, Jason hopes to share what he’s learnt with the rest of the world and inspire the next generation of farmers to follow in his footsteps and make a change for the better.
“If we do this right and prove that a farm of this size can convert, “go green” and be sustainable, what stops any of the other smaller farms. We are the example and the ability we have to get the movement out there, to show how and why to do it is mind-blowing. In the end, I want people to learn from me and also to be able to enjoy a nice T-bone steak on a Friday – with or without garnish from the garden.”
Talking to Jason, you can immediately pick up his passion and strong belief that, if we can change the way the next generation sees regenerative farming, we can truly begin to reverse climate change. He hopes that his success will teach the next generation of farmers to start off better by caring for the environment and respecting the animals they work with. Given that the demand for meat is unlikely to decrease in the foreseeable future, we applaud Jason for choosing to be a part of the solution and helping Boschendal provide a healthier and environmentally friendly alternative.