Atkins Farm opens gate to plate

Atkins Farm value-adds by taking lamb from paddock to plate

Agribusiness
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Tim and Monika McArthur plan to turn their Atkins Farm shearing shed at Meadows into a paddock-to-plate tourism experience.

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THE combination of owning a modest 20-hectare property in a tightly-held region and the desire to create a farm business worthy of handing on to their children inspired Meadows sheep producers Tim and Monika McArthur to turn their Atkins Farm into a paddock-to-plate tourism experience.

The Atkins/McArthur family have farmed the property since 1935, with Tim taking over as the third generation six years ago with wife Monika and now children Hastings, 6, and Romilly, 10 months.

Tim's mother Sue also still helps out on-farm, where they presently run 50 Merino breeding ewes.

"We plan to run up to 150 ewes, but have had to rest paddocks the past few years to get pastures back after tough seasons," Tim said.

In June, the couple were finally successful in gaining council approval for their paddock-to-plate aspirations.

"It had been an idea we had been thinking about since we moved back from Melbourne and since having children," said Tim, a portfolio manager, while Monika works in marketing.

"We needed to find a way to make a better return from our smaller holding, because it wasn't viable enough to live on and we wanted to make it into something worth passing on to the next generation.

"We would love to buy more land, but it is expensive in this region - we couldn't justify it with sheep, which we have always run. So we had to make the most with what we had."

Monika said they took inspiration from the numerous cellar doors in the region.

"We have a lot of wineries here, but nothing that really showcases our rich primary production history," she said.

"So we worked on that idea of a farming cellar door as a way to showcase our lamb with other local produce.

"There isn't a lot of primary production dining experiences in the Adelaide Hills, so it will be a unique experience for visitors to the region, plus people are really getting into learning about where their food comes from.

"It has taken a lot of work this past year, but we now can't wait to have people on-farm to show them how and what we do and how we look after our animals."

The working shearing shed will be a backdrop to the dining experience. - TIM McARTHUR

The McArthurs plan to build the function centre off their farm's shearing shed by early next year.

"The working shearing shed will be a backdrop to the dining experience," Tim said.

"We have collected old timbers from the area which we plan to use to continue the rustic theme through the new venue."

Their plan is to initially align with existing food events, such as Winter Reds Weekend and Tasting Australia, and then aim to attract private functions for those seeking a paddock-to-plate experience.

"We also hope to host our own events to showcase our lamb, maybe start with a traditional Sunday lunch," Tim said.

Their prime lamb would be a Suffolk over a Border Leicester-Merino ewe, with the animals processed on-farm, through a mobile abattoir, and then prepared by their local butcher.

"We hope to hang the meat for a longer period of time, maybe a fortnight, to get that point of difference," Tim said. "We also like the idea of using the whole animal."

The venue will be licensed for 75 people.

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