Who and how long in Eyre Region: Andrew is originally from pastoral country in the Gawler Ranges which is in the upper Eyre Region of Eyre Peninsula. Andrew purchased ‘The River’ in 1986 and has lived here since. Andrew’s wife, Sheree, is originally from a farming property near Cummins, she spent 17 years as a travel consultant in Port Lincoln and has been at The River with Andrew for the last 10 years.
Bit of Background: Andrew had been brought up on a station and has been a livestock producer all his life. Andrew lost his sheep stud which was his pride and joy during the Black Tuesday Bushfire (11th January 2005). Later in 2005 (July/August) Andrew and Sheree had the opportunity to operate a trucking business whilst the owners went overseas and learnt the inside story of what happened to their lambs once they left their farm and were appalled by the stress and delays and time factor caused through the market system. From that point we knew we had to do something better with our lambs so we commenced self marketing and personally delivering our lambs to the wholesaler. It soon became apparent that most lambs marketed off farms were not to the specifications that buyers really wanted for the domestic market. Andrew then became a buyer for Holco Fine Foods and educated local farmers to meet the specs required for premium product. Our own lambs which were being processed at Holco Fine Foods were always reported to be some of the best lambs they were receiving. Hyatt Hotel Adelaide even asked if they could use our name on their menu with our lamb which we were very proud of.
Andrew also became a buyer for Tatiara Meats, now owned by JBS Swifts Australia which gave him an insight into the vacuum packaging of lamb exported worldwide. He was so impressed and couldn’t understand why lamb wasn’t marketed and retailed this way domestically and that sparked the idea of processing and retailing our own vacuum packed lamb to local shops and having on farm sales. Our home, ‘The River’ Homestead was built in 1907 and is one of the iconic Eyre Peninsula farmhouses which was once part of a very large property owned by Agnes Goode, South Australia’s first lady parliamentarian. As we are located right on the Lincoln Highway, we felt this was a unique opportunity to have our butchery ‘on farm’.
How long have we had the butcher shop business for: Thus on the 1st of July 2011 The River Farm Products was fully accredited and started processing it’s own lamb . It soon became apparent we needed to be a full on butcher offering all meats to be successful. We diversified into beef and started buying and processing our neighbour’s pigs. Since opening, we have had three expansions, and have two full time employees in addition to ourselves.
As well as offering premium meat cuts, from day one, we put a lot of emphasis on our small goods and developed our own range of sausages, burgers and patties using natural ingredients to make us unique from commercially produced equivalents. Our ham, bacon and mettwurst are all traditionally handmade and smoked and are sort after by leading local restaurants. We currently process our products which are retailed at Tumby Bay, Arno Bay, Port Lincoln, Cummins, Coffin Bay and Elliston. A rapidly growing part of our business is the tourist trade as we are becoming well known all over Australia.
The best thing about working in agriculture and owning our own farm and butchers shop is being able to produce a superior product on our farm and retail it direct to the consumer and receive their appreciation – which we have never experienced to this level before. We love the interaction with customers and their support of what we are doing and love to hear travellers tell us from the other side of the country that they have heard about us and have identified us as a must do on their journey.
Our stock are all finished on lucerne and grasses where possible which makes us very different to the surrounding district which is predominantly cropping.
Products which we are proud of include our preservative free range of burgers, and especially our Sun Dried Tomato Lamb Patties, along with our cooked products including our Mettwurst. It takes approximately 1 hour to prepare a batch of mettwurst and about 5 hours to cook and smoke it.
With no pre-conceived ideas from formal training, a love for lamb and a desire to succeed, Andrew thinks outside the square and has developed his own ways of breaking down a lamb and has met the needs of the modern consumer. This has been very well received, and by request, Andrew has provided demonstrations and training in the way of butchery nights to local groups (e.g. Ag Bureau). For instance, a traditional leg of lamb is very hard to sell to a small family or elderly couple but if you do the rump into steaks, the round into marinated lamb steaks and pull the silverside and topside into a netted mini roast, the entire unit walks out the door as a value added product.We also provide an outlet for other local producers to sell their local products.