Will Brook’s daughter Eva: the original macadamias in Brookfarm products were planted when he was younger than his own daughter currently is. Photo D Mincher.
By S Haslam
Brookfarm’s Pam and Martin Brook were treechangers in the 1980s, and Brookfarm are a sponsor of the Writers Festival. The Echo asked Will Brook, current CEO and son of the founders, how he developed his business values.
You grew up in Victoria, then your parents moved to Byron to transform an old dairy farm into a macadamia farm and eventually Brookfarm. Did you have much concept of the ‘family business’ as a child?
By the time I was of an age where I knew what was happening the farm was already planted and growing – it was really just a part of our life. We would drive the inland road from Melbourne to Byron Bay just about every school holidays. Not many friends at school even knew about Byron Bay when we first started our quarterly pilgrimage.
Were you involved in the original planting of the macadamias as a young child? Or planting of the rainforest?
The original planting of the macadamias was done before I could have been any use to anyone. I was only three years old; the young trees were taller than I was. I remember watching the trees grow, however, each year growing stronger and taller as our paddock became a ‘real’ macadamia farm. The rainforest planting was something I was heavily involved in, from planting out huge sections of the forest to eradicating camphor laurel and lantana.
Were you always a rainforest lover, into sustainability, or did these values grow on you?
I have always been passionate and in awe of the rainforest and our natural environment. Over the years I’ve realised that my thoughts on environment and sustainability were inherent and influenced my perspective on business, family, and everything in between. The real change is that I am conscious of how important these values are for our society, for the community, and for industry.
I imagine your parents were keen to give their two young boys as much ‘country life’ as possible. Did your parents make you work hard on the farm?
Looking back I feel I was very lucky to have a foot in both rural life and living in the city. I am proud to live rurally and couldn’t be happier to be in the location we are lucky to call home. The ‘country’ life we live is pretty much fun. My wife Jess and I love taking our kids for walks through the rainforest, jumping over streams, snacking on riberries. We certainly had some hard days on the farm but most of our jobs were just good fun. I hope our kids feel the same way when they grow up too.
You purchase your ingredients within Australia wherever possible?
I feel strongly about farming in Australia. As a country we grow fantastic food and our farmers need the support of both the community and industry. We will only consider importing an ingredient if its source in Australia doesn’t meet our high quality standards or if the crop is simply not available or grown in the country. We will always support Australian farmers like ourselves first. In fact we are one of the only food manufacturers still using Australian apricots (rather than the Turkish equivalent); other recent Australian additions include delicious local walnuts and sunflower seeds.