Sustainable thinking in the family business

‘We truly want the world our two kids to grow up in to be one where not only our people, but our industry has a positive impact on the planet rather than simply taking its resources’
Will Brook of Brookfarm, pictured with wife Jess and their two children. Photo Demetre Minchev.

Will Brook has grown up in the family firm, Brookfarm, founded by his parents Pam and Martin Brook. He is now the operations manager of a business that exports around the world, as well as raising a young family, and The Echo caught up with him to ask him how it’s going.

Your wife Jessica runs a business, Ark and Eve, concentrating on organic, vegetable-dyed clothing. Do her values complement your own?

We certainly share the same values especially in terms of ethics and environmental sustainability. Jess and I own Ark and Eve, but Jess really is the brains and creative genius behind it all. Ark and Eve is a children’s clothing label; everything is designed by Jess and built on a core value of sustainability. All the clothing is made from natural fabrics that are plant dyed. It’s beautiful clothing that is made to last and meant to be cherished. We truly want the world our two kids grow up in to be one where not only our people but our industry has a positive impact on the planet rather than simply taking its resources.

I seem to recall that Brookfarm send almost all of their organic waste like shells to be used as mulch?

Brookfarm tries to implement a circular approach to all aspects of our business; this is evident in how we treat all of our waste streams. On our farm, all of our macadamia husk is reused underneath our trees; it makes a fantastic mulch. The same concept continues at our Bakehouse: any food waste goes to the local Brooklet Springs farm to feed their pigs and chickens; by doing this we reduce our organic food waste to almost zero. We are continuing to research and implement waste reduction and elimination to reach our goal of zero waste.

Do you bale and package other recyclables to make it cheaper to recycle these?

As part of our sustainability program we bale recyclable plastics, and all of our cardboard. By baling our recyclables we are able to significantly reduce food miles by reducing our recycled waste pickups from five per week to only one.

You use solar power for which you won the ‘best of the best’ in the 2015 Premier’s Awards for environmental excellence. You’d feel a sense of achievement from that, but what is the enduring feeling?

We were incredibly proud and humbled to receive the Premier’s Award for sustainability, it really reflected the hard work and great ideas that have been maintained in our business. My goal is that others look at and use Brookfarm as an example for how to conduct their own businesses. The same goes for the farm. We may not be the largest company around but we hope to be the working example and proof that you can be successful while being high quality and environmentally sustainable.   

Do you have any ‘business tips’ that you would like to see adopted more widely in the local food-producing industry? It’s a burgeoning industry – where would you like the industry try to develop?

I would like all businesses (particularly food businesses) to look at their entire system through the lens of sustainability. This would encourage lean processes that would reduce waste, create efficiency, improve quality, and generally improve the running of the business. The best way to find out how to do this is through collaboration. I’m a firm believer in collaboration and sharing ideas among peers, and between businesses. We do this currently through the Northern Rivers Food group and we find it incredibly beneficial. 

Do you think that you can expand your business within the Byron Shire?

We are currently operating over five different sites within the Byron Shire, and it makes sense for us to consolidate our operations. We use a lot of local suppliers wherever possible, and employ local people and we would like to keep our business within the Shire. At the moment we are looking at all our options and nothing is set in stone.

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