Since moving to Melbourne, I’ve bought my yoghurt, milk, quark and cream from Schulz Organic Farms at local farmers’ markets. Their products are my staples so I’ve gotten to know the guys as I stock up each week.
As a city dweller, it means a lot to me to have a relationship with the people dedicated to making the food I’m fortunate to have access to. Knowing the background and vision behind it provides a broader perspective and meaning, making it more than just beautiful food.
It’s great to know that Schulz Organic Farms value the connection too by choosing to have a direct link to customers and other producers by selling mostly through farmers’ markets, as well as cultivating personal relationships with the cafes, restaurants and the local specialty shops they supply.
As time has gone by, I’ve wanted to know more about their story. So, one day, I found myself asking Simon Schulz if I could visit the farm to see and learn more about what they do. Graciously, he said yes, and off on a road trip we went one weekend in June.
Before arriving at the farm, it was clear that the landscape of southwest Victoria had something to say. Driving out along the Great Ocean Road, there are stunning vistas are of jagged headlands shorn away by wild seas and wind that comes straight up from the Antarctic.
And on calm days, peaceful inlets of azure waters protected by sandstone and limestone cliffs offer a haven for humans and gentle plant life, which at other tempestuous times seems impossible.
Turning inland, the rolling hills are dotted mostly with dairy farms, the rusty tones of the last autumn colours and the moody grey skies that bring the high rainfall responsible for the lush grasses. And in late afternoon, they are rippled with the rhythm of the cows making their way single file up to the dairy for milking.
Schulz Organic Farms are tucked away from this huge landscape, just outside the small town of Timboon. They are both part of the area’s dairy farming community and quietly, intently building something unique.
The Schulz family has applied biodynamic and organic principles to their farm since 1971. The farm (and farmhouse cheesery) was started three generations ago by Herman Schulz, with the dairy farm carried on by son, Michael. Now, 30 year old grandson, Simon, is the extending that lineage to embrace the paddock to plate philosophy by producing milk, cream, cheese, yoghurt and more that can also be tasted at the onsite café.
Exploring the farm’s paddocks, dairy, calving pen and factory with Simon, it was clear what makes his products taste so good. There is a thoughtful approach to every aspect of what they do – from the health and sustainability of the soil and grasses, right through to their minimal intervention in processing to make small batches of the best product possible.
Being free to roam, rest and feed on large paddocks and treated with care, it’s no wonder the cows seemed so gentle and contented. They were delightfully curious and calm in our presence, even when we witnessed a calf literally just born take its first gangly gallops.
It really struck me as exemplifying Michael Pollan’s notion that “you are what you eat eats”. It was clear that the Schulz family understands that the health of the milk, the cow and the environment are not separate. They are one thing.
My intuition (and taste buds) had told me that Schulz Organic Farms were doing something special, and my relationship with Simon opened a door to understanding why. Now, having been there and experienced it myself, I have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the careful choices that go into making the farm and their products what they are. I don’t just know where my food comes from, I have a connection to the place, animals, people and values that infuse them. That’s what I can taste, and that’s why it tastes so good.
Big thanks to Simon Schulz for being so generous in sharing his time and story. For more information, visit Schulz Organic Farms or go and say hi to Simon at the market like I did.