There’s an ambitious plan hatching out at the entrance to Byron Bay from the highway on Ewingsdale Road.
It’s so ambitious that, when complete, The Farm will be just one of two known ventures of its type in the world, according to owner/manager Tom Lane.
Mr Lane told The Echo that the Stone Barns Center (www.stonebarnscenter.org) located in New York state offers much of what is in store for Ewingsdale: a functioning sustainable farm (100 per cent spray and chemical free), with a top notch restaurant, bakery, cafe and flower shop as well as regular permaculture workshops, children’s playgrounds and animal nursery.
Open farm tours are also planned, along with yoga and meditation classes.
And with sustainability at its central theme, produce grown on the 80-acre property will be used in the restaurant and bakery while surplus will be sold further afield.
To understand how the vision eventuated, let’s take a step back.
Growing up on a farm in Braidwood, just outside Canberra, Tom says he’s always had a passion for food and best farming practice.
After a successful career in the clothing/accessory trade running OROTON, and then managing modular construction machinery business Quicksmart Homes, he’s followed his passion.
He says his family – with wife Emma and four kids under the age of ten – moved from Sydney to Federal last December. But they are familiar with the region, having spent six months of each of the last three years here.
The inspiration for the business came from one of his children. ‘It was when our three-year-old disappeared one day on the family farm; when we found her, she had a shirt-full of beans.’
Already there’s around 500-odd chickens that provide about 400 eggs per day which will be going toward the bakery and restaurant.
The Farm utilises a smart chookhouse invention by famous US farmer Joel Salatin, who will be visiting The Farm for a masterclass in March.
Called the X-wing, the chooks sleep under wooden beams which are protected by gable Colorbond roofing. Above are nesting/laying boxes, which allow eggs to be dropped down along a gutter and be easily collected.
The best part is that the whole construction is on a sled, so it can be moved around to rotate the soil when needed.
As for farming, the soil has come up well, say Tom, considering the concerns over previous use as a flower farm.
‘It was tested and proved that whatever was used did not leave any long-term or harmful residue,’ he says.
Already there have been crops of onions, garlic and sorghum and they are now planting root veggies and half an acre of lettuce.
As for live animals, Mr Lane says there are heritage breed pigs (large blacks) and about 30-odd Scottish highland cattle. ‘It’s the oldest registered breed of cattle in the world,’ he says.
While planning has been ‘on the run’, he says he hopes to open in March after a very busy 18 months in construction. ‘Council have been very supportive,’ he says, ‘and we estimate around 100 people will be employed.’
For more info visit www.thefarmbyronbay.com.au.