Karen is a soil-geek, a self-confessed lover of grass, cows and horses. A mother of two boys and with her husband by her side, in 2018 they left behind the comforts of their (mouse-free) home of 20 years to jump headfirst into their own adventure – purchasing 108 acres of run-out, tired pastures, and hoses with no water in them!
But the McEwan/Jarlings had spent the last few years honing their regenerative agriculture skills and they were more than up for the challenge. With mentors and teachings up their sleeves from the likes of Joel Salatin, Gabe Brown, Nicole Masters, Dr Elaine Ingham, Dr Christine Jones and Alan Savory (just to name a few), they embraced their new paddocks with open arms and set to work improving water cycling, soil biology, and biodiversity. In almost four years at “The Pines”, they are seeing their country come to life with the carrying capacity increasing every year and providing a home base for their grass fed beef and chicken direct sales business, CGL BEEF.
Karen says she was “fortunate to have been born at the start of the BEST decade” – where she spent the 70s listening to her Mum’s records, ABBA, the Bee Gees, Charlie Pride and Dolly Parton, pretending to be Black Beauty or Flicka and learning to ride, first on her pony Dreamy before graduating on to bigger hand-me down horses. The 70s however was a time of great uncertainty, and Karen says she remembers vividly hearing about the Veitnam War, and the effects on people from the infamous Agent Orange.
Her teens were spent helping out on the home place, an extra pair of hands to look after the cattle, while Dad kept up with a spraying program on their family property with 2-4D to try and conquer a weed of National Significance – Groundsel. She played upon the spray tankers that held the very same chemicals that were used to make Agent Orange. The chemicals that would go on to cause heartbreaking cancers, birth deformities, skin conditions and so much more. That cocktail of herbicides that was used to defoliate the jungle in Vietnam, was, in part, used on family farms throughout Australia, and Karen witnessed it first-hand.
She says her journey of learning about soils, plants, chemicals, weeds, pastures and health showed her that weeds aren’t an evil force, lying in wait, ready to poison your beloved equine friend and take over your paddocks, keeping you locked in an endless cycle of killing things. “If you know how to read them, weeds can be powerful messengers giving insight into what the future can be. I have learned that whether you ride a Quarter Horse or a Stock Horse, a Thoroughbred or an Appaloosa, they and you will benefit enormously from a pumping, biologically alive soil.”
Karen’s love for her land and her soils is as strong as it is infectious, and pioneers like her are leading the way into making sure our horses, ourselves and our country are as healthy and alive as we all have the right to be.