THE GRASSROOTS APPROACH Meet the
family paving the way with self-sustainable farming
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
Walt, Shannan, Brett and Roman Jackwitz - The Barefoot Farmers.