Grace Springs Farm: A Holistic Approach

We’re midway through a series exploring the connection between farming methods and meat quality. This week we’re getting a peek behind the curtain at Grace Springs Farm in Kulnura as we chat to Virginia Mall about the far-reaching benefits of farming in a more holistic way.

It really is one of my greatest privileges in life to be a regenerative farmer.  I had wanted to be a farmer since I was a young girl but was ‘redirected’ during my teen years. I worked in corporate, moved to Sydney, met my husband & started a family.

All was wonderful until my son was diagnosed with leukaemia at just three years old. He had to go through two years of chemotherapy which was heart wrenching to watch. His diagnosis became a turning point in our family’s future.

I started researching, trying to find answers.  A mother wants to know why. I found that so much came back to the food we were eating as a society and even more importantly the way our food was farmed. So much has changed in how we farm our food in the last few generations. As I researched food, I was diving deeper and deeper into modern farming methods.

My son was declared to be in remission seven years after his diagnosis and the same day we took possession of our 26 acre farm at Kulnura on the Central Coast. It was a huge step for us as a family and a realisation of a long-held dream.

We wanted to farm without chemicals, we wanted to work with nature and we wanted to improve our soils and pastures. Our goal was to leave our farm in a better state every day than it was the day before. We wanted to produce nutrient dense food for our community. We were part of the emerging band of ‘regenerative farmers’.

What is regenerative farming?

In regenerative farming we try to take a step back, to look at the bigger picture, rather than just focus in on the problem and finding one fix-all solution. We try to take a more holistic approach. We look at the incredible symbiotic relationships between the animals and the plants and consider the whole ecosystem in our decisions – rather than just looking at managing a farm.  

As a farmer I am always looking for signs. Signs that our management is on track, and signs that we need to make some adjustments. We look for early signs of problems in our animals too. If a chicken’s comb is lopsided or their tail is down, they are not feeling well. If a cow hasn’t been chewing her cud or the pigs don’t come straight up for their feed, we will try to work out what is going on. By getting on top of any potential problems early we are able to minimise the use of medications in the food chain and produce clean, healthy food for our customers.

One of the signs of a thriving eco system is spider webs. Spiders are an apex predator, meaning they are at the top of their food chain. So, having spider webs in our pastures is a sign that we have lots of life/biology in our pastures for them to feed on. Having healthy soils means that nutrients in the soil can be drawn up by the plants and made available for the animals to graze on, leading to healthier animals.

The many benefits of rotational grazing

We rotationally graze our animals on our pastures. We move them onto new pasture nearly every day. By moving them constantly we are breaking the parasite life cycle and don’t need to use commercial drenches on our cattle. Manure with traces of commercial drench in it will kill dung beetles that try to eat it. We have a thriving dung beetle population that take the dung underground, aerate the soil, feed the underground biology, fertilise our pastures. They don’t ask for wages and no fossil fuels are needed either. A real win-win for the environment and the reduction in chemicals used in raising the animals is so much better for human health too.

On our farm we have some weeds and we are OK with that. Often the weeds are the only plants on the farm in flower at certain times of the year and provide pollen for our bees. If we didn’t have those weeds our bees would have to travel further to find food. We try to ensure we have food for our bees year-round and don’t use any bee attractants sprays to pollinate our fruits or veggies. Our farm may not be as neat and tidy as other farms in the area, but the biodiversity in plants, insects and animals is what we focus on. Life & biodiversity is often in the messiness & less curated areas.

Each different species of plant on the farm draws up different nutrients from the soil and makes them available to our animals when they graze the leaves. Having diversity in our plants means the animals can choose which plants they want to eat, based on which nutrients they need.

Farming in harmony with nature

We have had a pair of sea eagles here breeding over the Summer. They are magnificent to watch, but incredibly destructive to our meat chickens. To enable us to continue farming meat chickens – without impacting the sea eagles – we have added a Livestock Guardian dog to our team. Filippo lives with our meat chickens and instinctively guards them. He barks at foxes and goannas and jumps as aerial predators try to land in that area. We try to farm in a way that is complementary to our natural ecosystems.

We aim to keep our animals in as natural a habitat as they are originally from. Our cattle are out on pasture with access to shade trees, our pigs are kept in the more forested areas. Our chickens are free to dust bath, our pigs free to root around in the soil. By allowing our animals to express themselves in these natural ways we are reducing their stress levels and growing happier, healthier animals.

The bigger picture

In regenerative farming, success is not just measured in dollars. Regenerative farmers regularly practice biological monitoring and keep records on the number of species of plants, animals & insects within an area, as well as monitoring their soils for improvement.  Success is also measured in the increases in soil carbon and increases in biodiversity.

Regenerative farming is about looking at the bigger picture. Regenerative agriculture is about stepping back and allowing nature to do as much of the work as possible.  Looking at improving soils and pastures, ecosystems & environments. Raising healthy livestock and producing healthy food for our communities.

Grace Springs Farm is run by mother and son team, Virginia & Ethan Mall. They produce pasture raised chickens, eggs, pigs, honey & beef.  Their produce is available from the farm, Reko Central Coast, Avoca Beach Farmers Market & home delivery across the Central Coast. Grace Springs Farm also run Farm Tours for the public and excursions for school groups. For more information you can visit their website:

Georgia Lienemann

Georgia is a clinically trained nutritionist, wholefoods chef, columnist and mum. She’s been featured in Body & Soul and had TV appearances on ABC Breakfast and Studio 10 for her unique approach to food and health. She’s known for reinventing traditional foods for the modern kitchen and was instrumental in a radical new approach to sports nutrition with a program for the NRL Parramatta Eels, kickstarting their ascent on the ladder in recent years. Find out more at