Hilltops Free Range offers fresh premium pastured eggs each Saturday at the market. Having traded with us casually and at Christmas for a while now, we are excited to welcome them as a regular, permanent stallholder at the market.
With an eye on sustainability and a passion for farming, we spoke to Dr Katerina Kormusheva and Dr Anthony de Silva about their farming process and quality product.
Can you tell us about your farm and what makes it different to others in the industry?
Eight years ago, we looked at the options for adding fertilizer to improve soil fertility. The region where we are is traditionally sheep and cropping country, and chemical fertiliser spreading is what everyone does.
However, we decided to go down a different route: bring chickens to the farm, keep them rotating on the paddocks, and fertilising as they go, adding the much-needed biological matter to the soil, and producing gold-coloured yolks in the process. We have never looked back.
We designed our old-fashioned farming production system around the idea of taking care of the land for the next generations, and thinking sustainably for the future. We keep our chickens outdoors, in mobile sheds which have no floor – this is the only way to ensure the soil is fertilised naturally, and the chickens always have access to sun and wind on their feathers.
One aspect that stands out about your farm is the stocking density – can you talk to us about that?
Our stocking density is only 45 chickens per hectare. This gives each chicken over 100 square meters to roam around freely.
Our chickens are always outdoors, roaming and scratching. There is no shed, no barn, no fixed structure. Hilltops pastured eggs are produced in the true meaning of ‘free range’. We have the lowest stocking density of chickens per hectare in the industry.
What does the term ‘pastured eggs’ mean?
‘Pastured eggs’ is a new category with a focus on the well-being of hens and improvement of the soil. ‘Pastured’ means our chickens are raised outdoors, eat fresh green grass and enjoy the sun and wind on their feathers. They are protected by our Maremma Sheepdogs.
Maremma sheepdogs are an integral part of our farming model. Each flock has one or two dogs living with the chickens and protecting them from predators. The dogs are all raised on the farm and trained from young puppies to be guardians.
What about the process from farm to customer?
Every Friday, we pack only the freshly laid eggs and we drive out to Sydney that night, so all the eggs we bring to the market are laid the day before! It’s an exceptional experience to get eggs from pasture-raised chickens, within hours of being laid.
What’s your favourite thing about trading at the Carriageworks Farmers Market?
We really like chatting to customers about farming, and sharing with them the funny stories about our mishaps and great moments with the animals at the farm.
Visit Hilltops Free Range Eggs every week at Carriageworks Farmers Market. Open from 8am – 1pm, every Saturday.