oni Barton had been working in corporate marketing for 17 years when, in 2012, she decided to return to her roots and become a sheep farmer, starting her journey to producing ‘lamb bacon’.
As a sheep farmer, Toni was constantly looking around for ways to value-add to her product. It seemed that while she had left the industry, her background in marketing and finance was not far behind her. She set her own sale price at farmers markets, hosted lamb cooking masterclasses on her farm, and what’s more, created lamb bacon.
Every part of the lamb is considered valuable, except the lamb belly. Toni had the idea to send it off to be smoked like pork belly. It’s a low-grade product, but if she could value-add to it she could increase the value of the whole sheep. When it came back she knew she was on to a winner. She’d invented lamb bacon.
“When it was time to test it for sale, I took five kilos to a farmer’s market.” says Toni. “It sold out within the hour.”
“Then I made 20 kilos, then 100 kilos. Now I have my own smoke house and I’m selling in retail outlets.”
Toni is a participant in the Rocket Seeder Spring Crop 17 food and agriculture startup program – an accelerator program designed specifically to help food and agriculture entrepreneurs.
“I’m everything to those sheep. When my sheep are lambing, I’m the one that has to go out at 2 am in the rain and mud and help them.”
“Rocket Seeder offers a grounding moment each week to critically evaluate my business and approach.” says Toni. “My business has grown so quickly, it is excellent that this is balanced by the program’s deep thinking structure.”
Toni says her new life is physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. Yet she wouldn’t change it for the world.