NRF Member Story: Barefoot Farms
Barefoot Farm is the story of Ash and Matt – two chefs with a shared paddock to plate passion who became regenerative farmers, café owners and value adders and then pivoted their business in the global pandemic with success.
Ash and Matt started their farming story together while living in an old bus near Nimbin. Following organic farming principles, they grew a wide range of fruits and vegetables on a small one-acre market garden. They grew their produce and crafted it into delicious dips, pickles, sauces and spreads for sale at the local markets.
Wanting to expand their paddock to plate business, they took over a pecan farm and the popular Eltham Valley Pantry café in the nearby Eltham Valley six years ago. The farm has a lush orchard of 300 established pecan trees. They operated two businesses on their farm – the café and Barefoot Farms value add pecan products.
Regenerative Agriculture Focus
Matt and Ash focus on regenerative farming principles for their orchard of 300 established pecan trees and the surrounding ecosystems. They have an irrigation license to pump water from their river to their orchard but do not use it (even in the recent drought) as they value the health of the river ecosystem which supports a diverse range of wildlife including platypus and freshwater mussels. They measure the environmental health of their land by the increase in diversity of birds, frogs and insects on their property.
The Eltham Valley Pantry (café) had been around for thirteen years, six of those years with Ash and Matt at the helm. However multiple challenges were thrown their way back in 2019, firstly with the bushfires (being an outdoor café the smoke made it unpleasant for customers) and then during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.
Like a lot of businesses, Ash & Matt quickly re-evaluated and pivoted their business. The most difficult decision was to close the café for good. They then fast tracked their online sales and marketing strategy to take advantage of a nationwide increase in internet browsing. They put their focus into growing their Barefoot Farm operations and increased their weekly farmers market commitments.
“We are now giving our Barefoot Farm gourmet pecan products the time and energy they deserve. The idea behind value added products is fairly simple but sometimes it takes a worldwide pandemic to throw your hat in to the ring” Ash 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.” Ash remarked.
The Pantry kitchen was originally designed for the weekend café trade but the couple have now repurposed it to cater exclusively for gourmet pecan value add products.
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.
Their plans are to work on their packaging this year with an aim to become plastic free. They also have plans to expand their delicious gourmet pecan range and Botanical Gold products.