When COVID-19 hit, Harvest in Newrybar decided to focus on what they thought was appropriate, and their strength: food.
Harvest’s Blair Beattie says, for the last few months they have been working closely with local growers procuring weekly local and seasonal vegetable and fruit boxes for delivery or pick up. The experience has been quite extraordinary. ‘We are creating a community of people connected to their food’, Blair says.
Harvest are passionate about food security and the opportunity to promote local producers directly to customers. ‘This created a silver lining in a challenging time for the whole community. As people went into isolation, we were able to remain relevant and keep staff employed by shifting to an online business, with the chefs cooking up frozen meals, preserves and take-home dinners, and we kept the coffee cart open to ensure caffeine was still accessible.’
Harvest became a haven for locals, and on Saturdays would have a fleet of staff delivering food to homes from Ballina to Ocean Shores, and scores of people lined up (1.5m apart) to pick up their boxes and pantry essentials.
Beattie says at times it was gruelling. ‘At the heart of it, we wanted to show up for the community, while ensuring our people were safe from harm and supported. It was a time none of us will easily forget – and it is not over yet.’
Through adversity, Harvest found an opportunity, and now have birthed a new and vibrant small business that has great potential for our local growers. ‘Our connection to the community is stronger, our relationship with suppliers is healthier, and our business continues to survive in times uncertain.’
Vege and fruit boxes are procured weekly, subject to what is available locally and seasonally during the year. None of this produce sees a synthetic chemical, herbicide or pesticide – instead they are lavished with compost teas, biochars and compost. Blair says that their customers keep coming back thanks to these growing practices that result in super tasty food harvested just hours before delivery.
Every box contains some recipes and ideas, as well as a description of the more obscure vegetables (not found in Australian supermarkets) like cassava, Okinawa spinach, and warrigal greens.
‘We especially enjoy dropping in samples of native foods from Peter Hardwick, sample products from local businesses aligned with our vision, or cuttings to ‘eat then plant’ so people are growing at home. We have a wonderful group of loyal weekly customers and hope to encourage more.
‘Our growers are amazing humans; farmers are not revered as they should be, we know them personally and have walked their land to experience their work. All have healthy growing practices – most are regenerative, which means healthy soil. The grand vision is to help shift our local food system to regenerative practices; helping transition producers and empower consumers, collaborating with stakeholders and suppliers and supporting biodiversity, drought resilience, soil rejuvination, and enhancing ecosystems.
‘We look forward to expanding the experience for our customers to workshops, education and farm visits in the near future, when and where possible.
‘Thank you to all who have supported us through this journey’, says Blair.
To find out more about Harvest, visit their website: www.harvestnewrybar.com.au.