In David Trevor-Jones’s small, neat butchery on the family farm, he and his wife Kimberley work at transforming their own beef into sausages. David calls it the ‘shop’ and this is where he spends most of Monday and Tuesday each week.
The family farm spreads over 140 acres of Hayters Hill property; David is fifth generation. In 1881 his great-grandfather Eli Hayter had settled there and begun, as the town’s first butcher, to supply Byron Bay and its environs with meat. Part of the property was passed on to Eli’s nephew JJ Hayter, who founded a highly successful dairy herd, becoming a founder member and chairman of Norco for several years. Dairying continued there until the 1960s when beef production resumed. An only child, David’s mother Julie married the very Welsh-sounding Owen Trevor-Jones and then went on to produce offspring with very Welsh names. David takes care of the value- added beef and his brother Hugh the eggs, both which sell at local farmers markets.
I stand in the blissful cool of the ‘shop’ for the first part of my chat with David. Lean and bearded and softly-spoken, he exudes the same gentleness and self-deprecation I keep finding in men who work on the land – and so it comes as a surprise when I learn about his much-travelled and cosmopolitan background.
When he completed school he decided to defer university, despite having places at both Armidale and Gatton, in Agricultural Science and Rural Management respectively. What he did instead was to take a year off on an exchange program with IAEA, the International Agricultural Exchange Association, which took him first to Canada and then to Denmark. The Canadian stint of seven months was based at an enormous cattle farm whereas in Denmark, whose winter was ‘pretty challenging’, it was a dairy farm.
University was a four-year course which tossed in six months in Indonesia working in a feedlot, looking after the calves. At the end of his degree he came back home, but in the knowledge that he still wanted to do more, to work overseas, even if necessary as a volunteer. A job in the newspaper decided all that, taking him to New Guinea to work on a coconut and cocoa plantation. He was 28 years old and had 500 people working under him. ‘It was amazing living up there,’ he tells me. ‘I extended my three-year contract to four years.’
It was also in New Guinea where he met his future wife. He brought Kimberley back to Hayters Hill, realising that perhaps it was time to settle down. ‘I was always going to look after the cattle, and then the farmers markets came up. So I got into the butchery.’ The cattle are bred and raised on the farm then sent to Casino abattoir to be processed, the carcasses then coming back to Hayters Hill. They are grazed rotationally in virtually chemical-free conditions, and have been environmentally adapted to produce high- yield, high-quality beef. ‘We’ve bred our herd to suit conditions here,’ says David.
He doesn’t get into Byron Bay very much, apart from the Thursday farmers market. ‘Not if I can help it,’ he says. ‘Where I am at in my life, we’re not going out much (the couple have three children). Maybe I lament more the fact my kids can’t surf uncrowded waves. But in saying that, we probably couldn’t do the markets if Byron weren’t as big as it is. It’s double edged!’