- Touted as a ‘destination’ farm, a ‘community of growers, producers, eateries, educators and more’, The Farm at Byron Bay is an 86 acre property owned by Tony and Emma Lane, heirs to the Oroton empire.
Turn off the Pacific Highway to Byron Bay, and The Farm’s most visible signpost is a full carpark.
With a motto of ‘Grow, Feed, Educate, Entertain’, The Farm espouses idealistic principles together with a status worthy of being preceded by a capitalised definitive article. Certainly it can be many things to many people.
To families, it’s a place where kids can enjoy the playground within sight of dining areas, look at pigs, chicken and maybe cattle, see vegetables being grown, join in a family picnic on the grass, or generally run free, albeit within the bounds of a large fenced in area. They can also attend special activities held during school holidays. Pram friendly it is not, but all in all, it’s a great place for families to spend a few hours.
To urban farmers, The Farm offers leasehold land, use of communal sheds and equipment and the negotiated purchase of their produce. Weekend workshops are held monthly by Milkwood Permaculture Courses in such topics as Serious Backyard Veggies, Introduction to Permaculture and Gourmet Mushroom Cultivation.
To gourmet diners the hatted Three Blue Ducks restaurant offers rustic meals of fresh locally sourced fare, a daily barbeque as well as a regularly changing menu to maximize use of seasonal produce. While the restaurant’s approach may be seen as ‘paddock to plate’ or Farm to Fork, in reality our tour guide confirmed that only about 30% of the restaurant’s menu is grown on site. Rather than ‘The Farm to Fork’, it’s produce sourced from within 500km. Although our meals were not cutting edge cuisine, they’re produce-driven, full of flavor, beautifully cooked and mostly generous portions. Take your time – there’s relaxed service and a cool laid back vibe.
To holistic health seekers, there are cross-fit training sessions and 90 minute Vinyasa yoga classes available from Farm Yoga.
To shoppers, veggies picked from The Farm’s growers as well as local artisan products from local producers are available for purchase from The Produce Store, freshly baked bread from The Bread Social, flowers and homewares from Flowers at the Farm,
The underlying story of The Farm’s foundation, how the Lanes found that their children would eat vegetables on the farm but not in Sydney, reinforces their vision of a holistic, earth-born enterprise.
Like most farms, there’s a lot going on. About 40 acres of the property is used to farm Highland cattle which, along with the heritage black pigs, are taken to Lismore for slaughter, as The Farm is not licensed to slaughter as yet. So all other meat is purchased from off site, including chickens. There is a certified egg wash room, however, which allows the restaurant to use eggs laid on the farm. Chickens are kept for around two years before being sold. Macadamia and pecan trees have been planted for later harvest, and all produce is traditionally grown, spray and chemical free.
While not merely a ‘display’ farm or showpiece, most crops are grown within sight of the restaurant along fences bordering walkways, or in close proximity to the buildings. Further afield, sorghum has been planted to restore the soil of this former flower farm. Mention ‘organic’ and you’ll be told that it’s the ultimate goal; a long term one as the land must be nutrient rich and chemical residue free for certification.
For all its idealistic philosophies, The Farm is first and foremost a commercial enterprise. While entry to The Farm is free, tours carry a nominal charge of around $20 per person, and two day education courses cost around $500 per person.
With land, restaurant, bakery, coffee shop, flowers and homeware shops all held by leasehold, the Lanes’ huge business investment has guaranteed returns. While there are some elements of community at work, such as the negotiated cross-purchasing of products and the sharing of some common facilities, together with a common belief in farm sourcing and holistic lifestyle tying the whole thing together, The Farm bears far more likeness to a village where land is owned by a common landlord rather than a cooperative or commune where stakeholders hold equal shares.
Nevertheless, it’s a cleverly packaged, highly marketable concept which holds the most appeal to the demographic who has the most to spend: professional ‘30 – 40 something’ parents. At home with casual dining, rural retreats and espoused idealistic principles, the fact that The Farm is also geared to be financially sustainable doesn’t hurt its reputation at all.
11 Ewingsdale Rd, Ewingsdale NSW; Ph: 02 6684 7888 Open: 7:00 am – 4:30 pm
Three Blue Ducks Ph: 02 6684 7795; Open: Mon – Fri 7am – 4pm; Fri – Sun 7am – 10pm Three Blue Ducks
NOTE: This review has also been published on Blank Gold Coast.