Sounding like a cross between a bull, a deep belch and a ferociously boiling kettle, camels are creatures unlike any other. Over the years, I’ve had a few close encounters with these seemingly uncouth beasts – on a week long trip through a cyclone, and on a three day desert tour where my camel bolted and I lost the reins. I hung on, only just.
I was introduced to camels through my good friend Luke – who’s worked with them almost half his life and at one point even managed to walk from Alice Springs to Broome with a few. However, it was on a recent trip to Summer Land Camel Farm in Harrisville that I saw a whole new side to this amazing creature.
Drawn in by my partner after tasting Summer Land Camel Farm’s lip-smackingly delicious Persian feta, I entered the farm’s gates – which are about 40 minutes south of Brisbane – on a Sunday. It was a treat watching my seven-year-old have his first contact with a camel, feeding them from the $2 hay bags that lay just inside the fence.
Shortly afterwards, our guide and part owner of Summer Land Camel Farm, Jeff, gathered us around a tree and told us about the history of camels, the camel farm, and just why he decided to enter the camel dairy business.
Summer Land Camel Farm – a background
Jeff, it turns out, is an interesting and knowledgeable man who’s certainly done his homework. Apart from knowing a lot about camels, Jeff is a business strategist, a biochemist and nutritional immunotherapist. He and his business partner Paul had done seven years research into the business prior to its commencement.
Additionally, Jeff is passionate about helping people through the benefits of camel milk. As he will tell you, he has “a bit of a knack for finding out what is wrong with people”. His business partner Paul is an agricultural scientist who managed to achieve incredible results in drought conditions where no one else did.
Together Jeff and Paul are on a mission to make Summer Land Camel Farm the first commercial camel dairy.
From our tree we shuffled further into the farm, stopping adjacent to the camel pens while Jeff showered us with more interesting camel facts. For people with lactose intolerance, Jeff tells us, camel milk is a healthy option. Amazingly, camel milk has worked extremely well in combating illnesses such as viral infections and skin disorders.
While we were taking all this in, a draft blew tufts of hay across our feet as a child screamed and the belching, kettle sounds of the dromedary (one humped) beasts rumbled in the background. We were then led past the pens into the milking section. Here Jeff and Paul are currently turning conventional methods – which believe you can’t milk pregnant camels or camels without their calves – on their heads.
As camel dairy is a relatively unexplored venture and such methods hinder production, the team at Summer Land Camel Farm are breaking new ground – aiming for higher yields while building trust and respect with their camels. Rather than dragging wild camels onto the truck, Jeff and Paul spend two hours with their camels before they walk onto the truck themselves.
Such innovating and experimenting has placed Summer Land Camel Farm at the forefront of camel dairy knowledge and Jeff and Paul act as consultants in camel-centric regions such as the Middle East. Indeed, at this point in the tour I am fascinated, as Jeff’s camel knowledge and passion is palpable and we all feel as if we’re experiencing something more than just a leisurely tour.
After a few more camel strokes and pats, we wandered inside the farm’s Pennsylvania Barn where Jeff told us about the farm’s products, such as camel feta (which I’ve mentioned), camel milk gelato, camel milk chocolate and powdered camel milk.
We sat there huddled together in the spartan surrounds, mesmerised, as Jeff further extolled the virtues of camel milk. He shared with us how he’s cured his son’s eczema and helped a three-year-old mute girl speak for the first time through camel milk treatment. This, he says, is because camel milk doesn’t have the casein in it that other milk types do, which produces dysfunctional behaviour.
Ancient Egyptian queen Cleopatra also allegedly believed in camel milk power, as she used to bathe in the stuff!
Other products made onsite include skin cream, and camel milk and honey vodka. Wait, what? That’s right. Camel milk vodka. I still haven’t got my hands on a bottle, but I’m planning a return trip for some very soon. The alcohol content is 40.9% and it apparently smells like a honey and vanilla milkshake – so care is needed.
There’s also a full tour (which I didn’t do), where Summer Land Camel Farm offers guests the chance to suit up and make both cheese and skin care products in the onsite lab.
If you’re interested in camels, health, food, farming or just something different to do in the Brisbane area, I highly recommend a visit to Summer Land Camel Farm.
After the tour, I headed over to the onsite café with my family for a Mediterranean tart – sprinkled with camel feta – which was superb. We all tried the camel milk gelato, which is honestly better than any gelato I’ve tasted. This, with the backdrop of camels grazing in front of the Scenic Rim, made for a very pleasant setting indeed. And if the urge takes you, you can also try the cafe’s camel burgers and camel hotdogs.
In all, this place is the real deal. With the knowledge that Jeff and Paul have behind them, you’ll leave feeling like you’ve witnessed something special, a secret the world will soon know about.
While the kids will love feeding the camels, the camel milk gelato, going on a camel ride (yes, you can) and exploring the grounds, I wouldn’t recommend the tour to children under 13. There’s a lot of information and it might just be a bit much.
For more information, visit Summer Land Camel Farm’s website.
Disclosure: I went on a tour courtesy of Summer Land Camel Farm, however I write it like I experience it, as I just don’t see the point otherwise.