Living regionally and running a farm and business was a faraway concept for Bully’s Meat owner Robyn Verrall, who grew up around Adelaide and had spent most of her life working as a nurse before she met her now husband Christopher Bullen.
It was through meeting him in 2002 that she began her journey to running her own business, providing grass-fed, hormone free meat delivered to customers all around South Australia.
“I organised my high school’s twentieth-anniversary reunion, and that was where I re-met up with Chris, who was a farmer and after five years we got married and moved down to the country,” Verrall said.
“It was a massive shock to the system… I quickly realised I was his unpaid farmhand and I needed to learn how to drive all the trucks and the tractors, and animal husbandry so he had back up on the land.”
Diving headfirst into a completely new way of living was challenging, especially as they run the farm with no hired help, and Verrall had to learn fast to break into a male-dominated industry.
“I knew [the industry] was full of a whole lot of men and that was a barrier. I put my nose where it probably shouldn’t go, but I had lot of assistance along the way,” she said.
“I mean, nursing was originally dominated by male doctors. If you were lucky, you were given the honour of carrying the surgeon’s ashtray. That was the sort of industry that it was.”
They have been living and running their farm in Keith ever since, originally sending boxed meat into China, with Verrall accompanying the cattle on the long journey to the abattoirs to ensure humane slaughtering practices were followed.
After stopping exporting in 2017, they started to look for a new market.
After meeting Bidjara woman Jessica Wishart through a government leadership foundation course for which she was awarded a part scholarship, Wishart questioned why it was easier to transport meat to China then it was to take it into regional communities.
“The prices that the communities were expected to pay for meat were almost unreachable for First Nations families, the price of 500 grams of mincemeat was 70 dollars,” Verrall said.
“She (Wishart) said: ‘what can we do about this?’ So that’s how Kere to Country was born.”
Kere to Country, run by Jessica Wishart, Jordan Wishart and Tommy Hicks, provides fresh, affordable meat to Aboriginal communities in Alice Springs, and low-income families across South Australia.
Through partnering with Bully’s Meat they have been able to make over 100 deliveries since 2019.
Verrall also hand-delivers her meat to customers and families in need, providing an essential service to those living with food insecurity and struggling to put food on the table.
“We had a whole lot of lamb leftover from Christmas, so I put a call out to see if anyone knew someone in need who could use them,” Verrall said.
“I brought the meat to an Aboriginal elder, and I told her I’d put the spare lamb in her freezer. She said ‘are you giving me spare food?’
“When I opened her freezer there was just nothing in there, and that made me think, ‘what can I do to do better?’”
For Verrall, creating connections with her clients is the most important part of her business, believing her in-person delivers have helped changed perceptions of what farming actually involves.
“I get to meet everybody – I might only meet somebody for ten or five minutes, but I may be the only person they see that week, which was very common during the COVID lockdowns,” she said.
Winning the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award was a complete surprise to Verrall, who said she was delighted to be sharing the stage with finalists Lukina Lukin and Stephanie Lunn.
The $15,000 prize money will go towards further supporting Kere to Country’s endeavours.
“It was thrilling, I didn’t envy the judges – there were so many amazing women!” Verrall said.
“All of us we worthy to be where we were, it was a complete shock and it was so lovely.”
Verrall is now a finalist in the national Rural Women’s Award, which will be held at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday 6 September.Jump to next article