THE GRASS­ROOTS AP­PROACH Meet the

fam­ily paving the way with self-sus­tain­able farm­ing

Highfields' Own - - Contents - BY CLARE STANDFAST

Iin­stantly no­ticed Shannan Jack­witz tucked neatly in the cor­ner of a café, a glow­ing, nat­u­ral smile meet­ing my face when we recog­nised one another.

So this is the wife and mother be­hind The Bare­foot Farmer, I thought. All I could do was grin and laugh in her pres­ence. “So,” I said, “tell me about your fam­ily.” And that’s where we be­gan. Wife to Brett and mother to four-year-old Walt and three-year-old Ro­man, Shannan co­or­di­nates The Bare­foot Farmer, an in­ter­na­tional on­line hit on In­sta­gram and Word­press, where she posts about her fam­ily’s life on their self-sus­tain­able Groomsville farm be­tween Hamp­ton and Crows Nest.

“We’ve got cat­tle, pigs, about 40 chick­ens, a jer­sey cow called Joyce and her calf, veg­etable gar­dens and herbs,” Shannan says.

“Our sign at the gate says go slow, free-range chil­dren, be­cause they’re al­ways out and about ... they’re to­tally free-range!”

Be­sides wran­gling an­i­mals (and chil­dren) on the farm, Shannan works within The Well­be­ing Cot­tage in High­fields, nes­tled in be­hind The Choco­late Cot­tage.

The natur­opa­thy and herbal medicine clinic of­fers, among other things, com­pli­men­tary ther­a­pies, nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ments and diet and life­style ad­vice.

“That’s my pas­sion, that’s what I did be­fore kids, and it’s great to be back in that en­vi­ron­ment,” Shannan says. “I have a room where I do natur­o­pathic con­sul­ta­tions.” Orig­i­nally from Charleville, Shannan has lived in Dubai, Ire­land, the Gold Coast, Toowoomba and the Whit­sun­days to name a few, and Brett is from out­side of Kin­garoy.

While their back­grounds are an eclec­tic mix­ture of city and coun­try, their life­style at Groomsville is no mis­take.

“Ro­man was crit­i­cally ill for the first four months of his life, he had mul­ti­ple surg­eries, and ba­si­cally our fam­ily had to move to Bris­bane — we rented a place near the hos­pi­tal,” Shannan says.

“He had an amaz­ing re­cov­ery ... we had some amaz­ing doc­tors in Bris­bane, and an amaz­ing chi­ro­prac­tor here in Toowoomba that

trav­elled to Bris­bane just to treat Ro­man.”

Brett and Shannan knew that af­ter this ex­pe­ri­ence, they didn’t want to live in town any­more.

“The thing is, when Brett and I were long dis­tance that’s what we al­ways dreamed about do­ing, we used to talk about it a lot, but when I came back to Aus­tralia and we got mar­ried and had the chil­dren we just got caught up in life and that dream didn’t hap­pen and it just kind of got shelved,” Shannan says.

“We al­ways wanted to do it but we just couldn’t quite do it, and when Ro­man was re­ally sick we weren’t ex­pect­ing him to sur­vive, and we’d talk about what we’d do if we all got out, so we had a lot of dif­fer­ent dreams but the farm thing was what kept com­ing up.

“We wanted to do some­thing a lit­tle more chal­leng­ing and af­fect both the boys’ lives, so ex­pos­ing them to fresh air; fruit and veg­eta­bles, chem­i­cal and hor­mone-free meats — it changed ev­ery­thing for us.” Shannan ab­so­lutely loves liv­ing in the Groomsville area. “It’s a re­ally nice com­mu­nity out there — we have a few farms close by that we’re all friends with and we all have a sim­i­lar out­look on life, just try­ing to be self-suf­fi­cient,” she says. “It’s a more peace­ful life ... life is just more sim­ple.” Self-sus­tain­able farm­ing has seen the Jack­witz fam­ily con­stantly learn­ing, with plenty of hur­dles and laughs. “It’s great!” Shannan laughs, a large smile lin­ing her face. “The out­lay is al­ways there, but the boys learn about re­spect­ing the an­i­mals and where their food comes from.

“It’s great to go to the shops and not have to buy milk, eggs, bread, meat — it’s amaz­ing to not have to buy that stuff.”

Shannan has found that liv­ing on — and from — the land has changed her and her fam­ily’s lives for the bet­ter in ev­ery way.

“Our fam­ily is re­ally con­nected and happy — we feel a real affin­ity with the land, we know it’s a real priv­i­lege to have that,” Shannan says.

“Our lives are sim­pler so that makes me worry about things less and we’re not caught up in con­sum­ing as much. “On the farm you feel a lot more whole.” Shannan be­gan The Bare­foot Farmer In­sta­gram just over a year ago, purely for some creative ex­pres­sion about her life on the farm, and now she has in­ter­na­tional fol­low­ers.

“It’s con­nected us with peo­ple all over the world who are re­ally like­minded,” Shannan smiles. “I’m amazed peo­ple find us in­ter­est­ing!” Shannan has found sim­plic­ity from her fam­ily’s farm. “Life can be sim­ple if you al­low it to be,” she says. “There’s a real beauty in liv­ing in a sim­ple way — it’s that slow move­ment of be­ing present and not get­ting caught up in ev­ery­thing else that life has to of­fer be­cause that’s easy to do.

“We’ve been lucky enough to have been shown what’s im­por­tant to us, and that’s dif­fer­ent for ev­ery per­son, but for us at this point in time it’s our fam­ily, our farm and the an­i­mals there.”

Shannan en­cour­ages every­one to pur­sue a new move, what­ever it may be.

“Just do it — you don’t get another chance, so ev­ery­day that you’re not walk­ing around with a lot of grief and trauma about life is an op­por­tu­nity for you to give it a go and just do it,” Shannan says.

“Worst case sce­nario if you fail, just start again — I don’t want to look back on life and say why didn’t I do that, travel there, live there — you just have to do it, and you can­not in­flu­ence to­mor­row, and you can­not change yes­ter­day

“When you think about that — all I can in­flu­ence is right now — I think that gives you a free­dom to live dif­fer­ently.” She’s right, I thought. We smiled.

When you think about that — all I can in­flu­ence is right now — I think that gives you a free­dom to live dif­fer­ently. — SHANNAN JACK­WITZ

PHO­TOS: TIM SWIN­SON PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Walt, Shannan, Brett and Ro­man Jack­witz - The Bare­foot Farm­ers.

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