Finding the Silver Lining

Amidst the recent searing drought, devastating bushfires, damaging floods and now the COVID-19 pandemic, a small pecan processor and gourmet value adding operation has found the silver lining within the environmental and economic chaos.

During the COVID-19 isolation, Barefoot Farm fast tracked their online sales and marketing strategy to take advantage of a nationwide increase in internet browsing. Simultaneously, the team at Barefoot Farm increased their weekly Farmers Market commitments to include 5 markets a week with goals of a further 5 a week once restrictions are eased.

“We closed our café because of COVID and to adhere to government restrictions; we then pivoted quickly into online sales and Farmers Markets which were deemed as essential services” Co-owner of Barefoot Farm, Matt James said.

“We are now giving our gourmet pecan products the time and energy they deserve. We are two chefs with a passion for the Paddock-To-Plate ethos and I believe our customers can taste that in our products”

“The idea behind value added products is fairly simple but sometimes it takes a worldwide pandemic to throw your hat in to the ring” Matt says. “We were apprehensive as we’d been running the café and Barefoot Farm parallel to each other for a few years, but to actually severe the ties to one of your businesses for the betterment of the other was really hard”. “But once that leap of faith was made and we stood behind our decision we haven’t looked back. I’d encourage anybody considering value adding as a business choice to ensure they’ve got a good quality product and don’t be afraid of the public because they want to know and buy from their local farmers” Ash remarked.

The ambitious couple have developed a very loyal following during their 6 year tender of The Eltham Valley Pantry, and are sad to close its doors after 13 years of operation. However, their famous pecan pie lives on! “The kitchen was originally designed for the weekend café trade but have now repurposed it to cater exclusively for pecan pie manufacturing and baking our extensive gourmet pecan value added products” Matt says. “We now have more time to dedicate to baking products and can attend more Farmers Markets and increase online sales”.

“We also have our third child due in August so we’re really happy with the transition from café owners to pecan extraordinaires” Ash continued.

With all eyes forward the pair have goals of stocking more cafes, delis, butchers and speciality shops with their range of gourmet pecan range, increasing their online sales and attending more Farmers Markets. With the Paddock-To-Plate ethos the pair take great satisfaction in meeting new customers and having pecan pies, chocolate coated pecans or their irresistible maple roasted pecans going into more households across the country. “We love our food, we love our customers and our focus is to see more people eating pecans!” Matt and Ash say almost in unison.

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Dedication to organic farming

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Ash and Matt planted their first Market Garden together while living in a worn-out bus near Nimbin in the Byron Bay hinterland. Following organic farming principles, they hand-cleared two acres of overgrown farmland. After this mammoth task, they focused on raising free range chickens and pigs and growing a wide range of fruits and vegetables. They crafted the best Northern Rivers produce into dips, pickles, fermentations, sauces and spreads for sale at the local markets.

Wanting to expand their paddock to plate business, they took over a pecan farm and café in the nearby pristine Eltham Valley. The farm has a majestic orchard of 300 pecan trees, plenty of pastures for their free-range chickens and pigs, a vegetable garden and sweet-scented native flora for their honey bees.

They continue to follow organic farming principles as well as ethical and sustainable farming practices. The pecan orchard is managed biologically, without pesticides, and with a focus on natural fertilisation and soil management. Areas of the farm are undergoing bush regeneration. Leftovers from biannual pecan harvests are fed to their happy and healthy pigs and they rotate their animals regularly to ensure they have fresh pastures to forage. The farm harnesses solar power and Matt and Ash are working towards the farm becoming carbon positive.

From their farmhouse kitchen, Matt and Ash continue to create recipes using their home-grown pecans and local produce. They want their customers to taste the quality of ingredients and spoonful of love they put into their delicious paddock to plate products.

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Paddock to plate passion

Barefoot Farm is the story of two Chefs with a paddock to plate passion. Ash & Matt became farmers near Byron Bay to focus on their love of the freshest, highest quality ingredients. From their farmhouse kitchen, they created a range of delicious pecan recipes using quality ingredients and a spoonful of love.