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Veterinary scene Down Under: From vet to farmer
An Australian zoo veterinarian is building a demonstration farm and cooking school guided by the principles of regenerative farming and animal welfare
A secret desire to learn how to drive a tractor was a contributing factor that a decade ago led zoo and wildlife veterinarian Cree Monaghan to move with her young family to a farm property in the Margaret River wine region in southwest Western Australia.
Monaghan and her husband, Tim, have since developed One Table Farm, a demonstration farm and cooking school that provides an accessible way for individuals to learn about regenerative farming, food production, animal welfare, and a sustainable future in the face of critical issues such as climate change.
“There are not that many farm-based cooking schools in Australia—and we know why, they are hard work—but we feel that one of the hallmarks of what we’re doing is that it is based on science. I am an avid learner and am passionate about the farm, about animals and how incredible they are, about progressive thinking and trying new things, looking for solutions. I have constant ideas!” Monaghan said in an interview with dvm360®.
“Both Tim and I have really enjoyed the education components of our careers, so we felt that an opportunity to share what we were passionate about with others was worth pursuing. We really focus our core principles on key aspects of climate change mitigation, which is an issue that is affecting every aspect of our lives, including animal welfare. We also recognize the importance of our community and the essence of regeneration as a principle, over sustainability and self-sufficiency.”
The 100-acre One Table Farm has an orchard with more than 40 fruit and nut trees, including macadamias, walnuts, pecans, stone fruits, apples, pears, custard apple, capers, and pomegranates, according to the farm’s website. There is a kitchen garden measuring one-third of an acre, plus coffee and tea plants, and there are chickens, sheep, dogs, cats, and an ever-changing collection of steers and pigs, depending upon the time of year. Monaghan credits her European mother with instilling in her a passion for cooking, and she has trained as a chef at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. One Table Farm offers farm tours and cooking workshops, as well as educational opportunities for local community groups and volunteers. They also make and sell sourdough bread.
Having started her career in mixed-animal veterinary practice, Monaghan spent a significant amount of time working in the zoo and wildlife industry. Animal welfare has been her focus for the past decade, and she became a member of the Animal Welfare Chapter of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists in 2014.
“My career in the zoo and wildlife industry has involved a lot of research and working in an area with a lot of unknowns, so I am in my happy space when I am learning new things. Veterinary medicine is also a service-based industry and this is really key when offering an experience like we do,” Monaghan said.
“Having a veterinary degree and a membership qualification in animal welfare are key factors in aspects of our business, however more fundamental is the approach to problem solving and an ability to think laterally that you learn in veterinary school. I often told students during lectures that I think vets can do anything if they put their mind to it.”
Combining her passions for animal welfare, ethics, and farm production, Monaghan is excited about the regenerative food production space and is keen to shift more of One Table Farm’s focus to animal welfare in the production animal area with the hope of providing more awareness and choice to consumers, while hopefully also providing market opportunities for the producers.
“We are hoping to progress our regenerative agriculture plans, including growing more indigenous grasses and foods to be used in the bread we make and as an aspect of our approach to climate change mitigation strategies, I have endless ideas, to be honest. One Table Farm really is a very special place of sharing and learning,” Monaghan said.