Her newest Buy Meats line is bone broth. “I get Google alerts on what people are doing overseas and bone broth seemed to be all the rage, so I trained myself. It takes two days to make a batch and I bottle it. I’m now also making bone broth for pets. Our market tastings for pets were a hit.”
The Newells drive their refrigerated truck to two farmers’ markets in Sydney each week and stop at five locations en?route for kerbside drop-offs to regular customers. Before the COVID-19 crisis struck, online orders accounted for 5?per cent of sales, but that rose in one week to 30 per cent.
“Business is better, but it’s a lot more work,” says Lauren. “Ninety per cent of our business is repeat customers. Some have even come to stay on the property three or four times. How else do city people get to experience farm life?”
The farm-stay accommodation was part of Lauren’s bid to diversify the business. She and Greg converted their Linga Longa home into an Airbnb property, and built a shed with rooms on top for themselves. “I thought we could move back into the house when we retire. Not that I can see us retiring any time soon.”
Lauren’s marketing background has proved useful in other ways, too. In the 2019 drought, the death of her favourite cow, Magnolia, which was pregnant with twins, got her thinking. “The drought kind of snuck up on us. We didn’t realise how bad it was until June. The grass was short and had no nutrition. By August we were feeding the cattle pellets, which cost $1000 apiece.”
Lauren started a Name a Cow campaign on social media, whereby people could donate from as little as $20 to have a Linga Longa cow named by them. She’d provide the donor with a cow’s photograph and details, and the money went towards buying pellets of feed.
“It went crazy – it saved us from going under,” she says. “My spreadsheets came to the rescue keeping track of all the donors and the names and the cows. But it made people feel good. Some people ‘gave’ cows as Christmas gifts and we had donors from the United States, England and Switzerland. The Swiss guy named his cow Heidi.”
In December, Lauren was a runner-up in the NSW Farmer of the Year awards. Due to the bushfires, her scheduled on-farm interview with the judges was conducted by phone, but they told her that to be a finalist in a year of drought was an achievement in itself. “Marketing products and the personalities behind them is a strength of Lauren Newell from Linga Longa Farm,” they said.
When AFR Magazine met the Newells at the The Beaches Market in Sydney on a wet and windy Friday in June, they were doing just that – marketing their products with the disarming charm of farmers just arrived in the big smoke. And the socially distanced folks, if not their dogs, were lapping it up.
The July issue of AFR Magazine is out on Friday, June 26 inside The Australian Financial Review. Follow AFR Mag on Twitter and Instagram.