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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!


barefoot farm byron bay hinterland organic nuts pecan nuts pecan orchard pecan pies

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