Margaret Thompson is proving age is no barrier to innovation in farming.  

Key points:

  • Maleny Buffalo farm diversified its products during the pandemic when its income streams dried up overnight
  • Margaret Thompson says the farm focuses on zero-waste agriculture, meaning they use every part of the beast
  • Its meat, cheese and pre-packaged meal products are in high demand

The 83-year-old and her son Michael have spent the past 12 months branching the business into other markets.

Ms Thompson said the farm at Maleny began 15 years ago producing milk, cheeses and steaks but has now expanded into buffalo processed meat products and leather goods.

“You don’t have to be young. You can be a senior and still have ideas,” Ms Thompson said.

The pandemic forced the Maleny farming family to think about diversification.

Michael Thompson said the business had major income losses almost overnight.

“When COVID hit the cheeses stopped, all the restaurants stopped,” he said.

Mr Thompson said a silver lining to the pandemic was people had gained more appreciation for where their food comes from.

A woman on a buggy with a blue shirt

Margaret Thompson says diversification has been key to ensuring her farm thrives.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Meg Bolton)

“And that’s what’s given us an opportunity to leverage into the market.”

Waste not, want not

The Thompsons are proud to say they use every part of the beast in their production, a practice known as zero wastage agriculture.

“In fact, my son is actually found a market for the hides, which was very difficult.

A table with cheeses and meats

The Thompson family has diversified into buffalo cheese and meat products.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Amy Sheehan)

“It’s just becoming more ethical around the whole thing.” 

Butcher Kerry Melrose is a major part of Thompson’s buffalo operation.

He said he was impressed by the family’s zero-waste approach.

“There’s virtually nothing being wasted now because Michael’s even looking to get the bones dried for dog chews,” Mr Melrose said.

An older man in a hat standing in a paddock

Butcher Kerry Melrose believes buffalo has potential to become as popular as Angus beef.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Amy Sheehan)

Meat and Livestock Australia Managing Director Jason Strong said reducing waste had become an important part of the industry.

“We can produce more value, more protein, more products from the same amount of input,” he said.

“And that’s a really important component of reducing the waste or what’s perceived as the waste from the supply chain.”

“It’s certainly a goal that people are very conscious of —  from a community and consumer point of view.”

The next ‘Angus’ of the red meat market

Mr Melrose believes buffalo is the next big thing in the red meat industry.

“The meat has actually got a sweet taste and a higher level of iron and less cholesterol. That is starting to come into vogue a little bit more.”

He said demand was growing for the products, which are now stocked at independently owned grocery stores on the Sunshine Coast.

Meat in a grocery store cabinet

Buffalo meat from the farm is being sold at independent grocery stores on the Sunshine Coast.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Meg Bolton)

“They’re looking for something either really, really good or something a bit different, and I think buffalo will fit that bill very well,” he said.

For Ms Thompson, the future of the buffalo industry is bright, and she believes there is room to grow it further.

“A little while ago, you had to have a licence to keep buffalo, and there were restrictions on your keeping them,” she said.

“You had to pay registration. Now you have no restrictions on your keeping them.

“So, it’s going to grow. I’m sure it’s going to grow.” 

Posted , updated 

From nose to tail, these buffalo farmers are turning waste into products
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