Robust is the “New Black”, not everything will go to plan.

Being Robust is the new Black.

We’ve all heard it before; “when life gives you lemons make lemonade”…but it’s not as simple as repeating a few well rehearsed mantras when something doesn’t swing in your favour let alone making a sweet refreshing beverage. Adding to any drama can be the usual multipliers: finances or family where a combination of events can turn into a world imploding situation with cataclysmic ramifications seemingly destined to alter the human race.

Well…we experienced such an event and it all started on Christmas Day.

Cringe, we hear the collective sigh….

It started when we noticed the front tyre of our car was slightly flat. Nothing to raise an eyebrow at but something that needed addressing. We diligently went to the service station, administered the required amount of air and continued upon our very merry Christmas-y way. Two days of eating and indulging ensued before we noticed that the tyre was again a little sorry looking. Suspecting a slow leak we administered more air and scheduled an appointment with the local tyre centre.

Did I mention it was now that unusual void period between Christmas and New Years in a coastal town where days, dates and routine magically disappear? (It gives context as to how the story progresses).

Anyway, the next morning we drove down to the beach on a tyre that was holding air and returned from our swim with a tyre that no longer resembled a plump disc but more a French crepe. A simple tow to the tyre centre and we were soon informed that the slow leak was actually the result of a cracked rim. No worries, pop on the spare and we’ll fix after the holidays. HA! NOPE!

Unbeknownst to us mere mortals, the spare tyre that was sold when we bought the vehicle wasn’t compatible and couldn’t be driven on for any extended period of time. No problem…we’ll buy a new spare I hear you say. Not happening. No hubs available, no spares around, no Facebook solutions and no Youtube ideas. So nothing could be done until eating some Christmas leftovers and brainstorming.

Solution. We drove the infamous cracked wheel hub another hour further west on a public holiday to be welded back together by an old cockie we called on a landline who was the neighbour of a friends mate. Seriously! Christmas holiday’s aren’t meant to be spent like this. Despite all the obstacles the wheel rim was expertly welded and we headed back to the beach for a well deserved swim.

But, as we rolled back into our quaint coastal retreat the car coughed and splattered. Perfect timing for the alternator to give up the ghost. We are now stuck at the beach without a working vehicle until after New Years. Our car troubles have really gone up a gear and are now more exciting than the hotly anticipated midnight NYE fireworks.

Three days later after countless swims in the ocean and many miles walking up the road for a coffee, the alternator was installed…NOT! Due to a misdiagnosis by two independent mechanics the alternator was deemed in sound working order all along and a mere battery would have saved the day.

Anyhoo, the car starts like it should, the rim was repaired and the tyre was fitted. Our journey home was finally underway 5 days later than we anticipated but we had a great time connecting as a family and resigning to “if it’s meant to be, it will be”.


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.