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Letting go of the Ego

Posted by Lilly Choi-Lee on

Paddock to Plate Principles...

Fearless, passionate, ethical and unashamedly focused on contributing to a more nourished earth for their children and future generations.

Our Barefoot Farmers are Ash & Matt, true foodies, experienced chefs who put in the long hours to hone their craft at hatted establishments, where the source and quality of ingredients mattered as much, if not more, than the final presentation at a guest's table. 

Their story resonates with so many young and talented city folk who one day, decide they would like an adventure, a sea change perhaps and take to the road to explore where it would lead them.

For these two, they ended up near Nimbin in the hinterlands of the Northern Rivers region;  while living in a ramshackle bus, the couple planted their first Market Garden.  Their passion and vision to bring the purest ingredients from paddock to plate inspired them to clear, by hand, two acres of overgrown farmland, using the fundamentals of organic farming.  Back-breaking but oh, so worth it!  Success came in the ability then to invest in husbandry - raising free-range pigs and poultry while nurturing a variety of fruit and vegetables to craft into pickles and dips, sauces and spreads.  Like all entrepreneurs in the Northern Rivers region, the markets were the perfect location to introduce their food creations, build their brand and garner a loyal local following.

This following grew when Matt and Ash bought a pecan farm and cafe, tucked cosily in the cradle of the Eltham Valley - 300 majestic pecan trees, even more room for their chickens, pigs cows and horses to freely roam - and even more land to expand their vegetable and fruit garden and continue to apply organic farming principles, sustainable and ethical farming practices. 

Their focus is on soil management and natural fertilisation, rotating their animals regularly, no wastage from pecan harvests as any leftovers are given to their lucky and very happy pigs!

As young farmers, they are actively playing their part in taking responsibility to help preserve the future of their environmental, social and economic legacies.  What we do today affects not only our future generations, but the future of our planet, and with raising a young family, they feel this even more keenly.

Biodiversity is one of the barometers of a healthy ecosystem as a broad spectrum of species (fauna or flora) allow for recovery from adverse impacts and survival.  This is the key to organic farming as a biodiverse area reduces the need for pesticides - a balanced ecosystem provides both predator and support to keep natural equilibrium, fostering resilience and adaptation within the ecological community.

So Matt and Ash's commitment to sustainable farming and eco-practices have led them to the goal for the farm to become carbon positive.  

In addition to the farm, being passionate chefs, the couple opened Eltham Pantry - a tiny cafe that was always patronised via word-of-mouth.  The quality of food and the warm, welcoming atmosphere was renowned and treasured by not only locals, but visitors from afar who somehow discovered this hidden gem in the Northern Rivers.

"Sometimes we'd finish the last order & leave our guests to continue on their enjoyment of the evening and we would go to bed," such was the beautiful community in which Eltham Pantry thrived...

Until Covid-19 struck.  Stories of the global pandemic impacts are endless, with Ash and Matt being forced to close their cafe.  They literally pivoted to the online model of baking, bottling and selling their delicious products from chocolate coated pecans and pecan pies to their irresistible spiced rum marmalade and 24carat Botanical Gold Garnish.

"This is not Goodbye, but Hello to something new!"

In typical Ash and Matt fashion, with optimism at the forefront, they are now powering away, they have eliminated plastic packaging and are land-sharing as well as kitchen-sharing with other entrepreneurs who were impacted by the 2022 floods in our region.  

And in the midst of their rebirth, they recently got married.  In a shed built by Matt of course!

I asked Ash what she's learned on this remarkable journey so far and she replied, "The death of the Ego."  

Giving back in tractor-loads.  We do love all our Barefoot Farm partner artisans - inspirational, kind and generous.  And they make fabulous pecan yummy products and the best pecan pies - ever!


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Bravery in Recovery

Posted by Lilly Choi-Lee on

First the bushfires.  Then the pandemic.  And just as we thought the light was glimmering at the end of the COVID tunnel, Mother Nature decided otherwise and sent us a couple of "rain bombs" to isolate communities, inundate low lying flat plains like Lismore and render thousands of people homeless.

Throughout the event, there were countless callouts for help, cries for basics like food, clean drinking water and shelter.  The Northern Rivers community was galvanised into action, self-organised by enterprising and resourceful individuals and groups;  we all played some part - from giving hugs and cups of tea to donning boots to help clean out the foul-smelling mud-covered home. It was neighbourly love at a regional level.  And it was both heart-breaking and soul-warming. 

We will get through this.  We will recover.

And amongst our tribe of partner artisans, those most affected were our Pyewackets Traditional team Genna & Katrina who lost their little shop based in Lismore, our Barefoot Farmers Matt and Ash watched helplessly as their pecan orchard in Eltham went underwater and our young farmers at Olive Gap Farm in Woodburn somehow remained unbelievably optimistic amidst the chaos of rising waters. 

They managed to rescue barrels of certified organic tea tree oil floating away (thank god they were airtight) and were fortunate to some extent with the brand new packaging that had just arrived in a shipping container.  "With a chain gang in chest height water, we managed to save half of it before it went too high to manage."

However, the proverbial phoenix has risen out of the waters, with collaboration at the forefront.  As the Barefoot Farm floodwaters receded they offered the Pyewackets Traditional team space in their kitchens to continue to operate.

Olive Gap Farm put out a call to support with pre-orders of their divine tea tree oil in the brand new bottle & packaging - along with new product launch in the form of certified organic tea tree hydrosol! (Hydrosol is produced as a by-product during the distillation process for the essential tea tree oil.  We call it the "floral water" - perfect as a therapeutic face toner and full body deodorizing spritzer and antiseptic spray.)

On the surface, the sodden earth is now dry.  But the scars of the flood are etched in the eyes of those affected and their mental anguish remains hidden and for many, unrecognised.  There is still much to do...

Recovery requires bravery.  Taking one step and one day at a time.  

Thank you to our tribe who have supported our artisans and our region in whatever capacity you could!

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Connection to Country via Tea Tree

Posted by Lilly Choi-Lee on

A beautiful post penned by TARA LUCA, one of our passionate artisans from Olive Gap Farm

We were fortunate to share a coffee & stories during NAIDOC week with one of our local Bundjalung elders, Aunty Simone.

It's amazing to talk to Simone and learn more about the rich history of this area. Tea tree (melaleuca alternifolia) is only native to Bundjalung country in Australia which our local mob is part of and it's been part of their culture for tens of thousands of years. Much has been lost, but there is still a lot we can learn. 🍂

She shared stories about the local Tea Tree Lakes being "Women's only" places and were used for childbirth and rituals due to the healing qualities of the Tea tree. 🌿

Her father had also been a Tea tree farmer for a while and she has memories of him hand harvesting and woodfire bush distilling the oil, in pretty much the same way we produce our oil today.

We have been chatting with her for a while now about getting the farm involved in some local initiatives for aboriginal youth. Both Alex & Nina have worked with local Bundjalung kids for many years and we have some cool ideas brewing! Looking forward to sharing things soon.

We feel so privileged to be having these conversations with some of the local traditional custodians. I'm currently writing an e-book about Tea tree and really want to be able to honour the history of its traditional origins in a respectful way while being aware that essential oils in there current form are a modern invention since settlement which has taken on a history and story of its own.

Aunty Simone will also be working on some artwork with us, so we can honour the local mob in some way on our new packaging! Stay tuned.

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Our own Macadamia Farmer & His Wife Story!

Posted by Lilly Choi-Lee on

Meet Andrew Leslie, a man connected to the land as a second generation macadamia nut farmer.  His passion & love for this region of the Northern Rivers brought him back here after a corporate career as an accountant.  Andrew comes across as being quite serious but he has revealed a definite cheeky larrikin side to him - and he knows a lot about macadamia nuts!  

So what better place to start than to listen to him tell us about the humble little macadamia nut & its journey from farm to face... 

Ann is the beauty & the brains behind the Avilla Farm Skincare story & we look forward to sharing more insights to her, her career and lifestyle change to follow Andrew back to his roots in the Northern Rivers...


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No Ordinary Day on an Organic Tea Tree Farm

Posted by Lilly Choi-Lee on

Harvest Time

There is a small window of opportunity to harvest the native “melaleuca alternafolia” tea tree plants – at the end of each Australian winter in the month of August.

So, as the northern hemisphere begins to cool down, here down under in Australia, we are beginning to warm up! 

No Ordinary Day 

It is a true family affair & at the end of final harvest, there is no better way to relax than gather by a campfire, create music & share stories of the day.The video below shows our Olive Gap Organic Farm family hard at work harvesting the tea tree, using an old Massey Ferguson 65 tractor & a forage harvester - slower than other commercial farms, but much gentler on the earth. 

Join us on our future posts to watch as we extract the most beautiful, botanical tea tree oil using traditional wood-fired distillation methods & share with you some natural benefits & ways to use our certified organic farm tea tree oil.



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