Harvest Cafe: paddock to plate, for real

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The whole restaurant-with-added-market-garden is becoming a bit of a thing. And hooray for that.

Most examples I’ve seen, however, are heavy on look-and-feel, but light on actual, really truly, garden-to-plate action. Not so with Harvest Cafe in Newrybar, just south of Byron Bay. 

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Now just to say, I think that any and all cafes and restaurants dabbling or dreaming of growing food on-site or nearby are to be applauded, no matter what the scale. Bring it on.

However, as someone who lives on a farm with a small market garden, I now have an appreciation for the volume of veggies you need to feed, say, just 40 people for three meals a day for two weeks.

And it’s much more than you might expect.

Now in our current food system, there’s no problem to make vegetables appear for use in your cafe. It’s all good, all easy.

Chef rings the supplier, and the boxes and boxes and boxes of vegetables just show up, and everyone starts cooking. On with the show.

But to grow all those vegetables, or even just half of them, or even just 3 of the 43 varieties of vegetables and 1/4 of the herbs that you use in the menu each week… that is something else entirely.

Add to that mission organic growing practices, and you’ve got yourself an undertaking.

But Harvest Cafe are doing it. Huzzah. They’re not (yet) growing the entirety of the vegetable inputs for the cafe, but they’re growing more than anywhere else I’ve yet seen.

I was lucky enough to be shown around Harvest Cafe’s veggie beds and nearby market garden by their resident grower, Dayne Thompson.

Dayne’s a fabulous organic grower who just happens to be a old mate of Milkwood Farm’s market gardener, Michael Hewins. So I had an in. And off we went.

It was great to see.

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Like most eateries, Harvest Cafe doesn’t have the space to grow veggies in large quantities on site. Luckily, Newrybar is surrounded by fertile farming country (which just happens to be exquisitely beautiful).

The answer for Harvest has been to rent a parcel of mostly flat land, just up the road and around the corner. This is where Dayne produces some of the cafe’s veg, with the help of a few others, using organic market gardening techniques.

So here’s another example of market gardening on rented land as a solution… it’s a bit bigger than Wagtail Urban Farm, the rented microfarm we profiled last, however!

After checking out the market garden, it was time for a mooch around Harvest Cafe proper – this place spans between the renovated Newrybar woodfired bakery, a cafe in front, a deli next door, and a beautiful kitchen garden out the back.

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The bakery out the back in full swing

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A spot of DIY cold smoker action, behind the bakery

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The kitchen garden out the back of the deli is everything a kitchen garden should be – full of inspiring, healthy veg, edible flowers and shady spaces.

A sprinkling of produce from here makes it’s way to the deli.

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Harvest Cafe is just off the Pacific Highway at Newrybar, in the Byron Bay hinterland.

Next time you’re passing through, make sure you call in and  grab a coffee and some amazing bread (or better yet, sit down for a sumptuous meal). And don’t forget to take a moment in the kitchen garden.

Good food lives here.

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And the best bit? You can join us to hang out here for a day in February! We’re holding our north coast Art of Fermentation workshop with Sandor Katz in the Harvest bakery on 12th Feb 2014.

Dayne will be supplying the amazing veg for workshoppers to chop and ferment, there will be local raw organic milk to make into kefir, much other fermented action, and it will be a day to remember.

Limited places are available, as this is an intimate hands-on affair. Join us if you can, it will be a special day.

This will be us, in the Harvest Bakery. Except we will have chopping knives in our hands, aprons on, and be sipping amazing fermented things inbetween...

This will be us, in the Harvest Bakery. Except we will have chopping knives in our hands, aprons on, and be sipping amazing fermented things inbetween…

>> More posts on growing good food, and fermenting

Big thanks to Danye for the personal tour!

10 Comments

  1. Posted December 17, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink | Reply

    Great story, thanks Kirsten. I’d love to show you guys what’s happening up here at Hampton/Ravensbourne sometime. My wiife and I have started a direct to customer market garden using a combination of our own acre and half garden, and a shared plot 10 mins drive down the road. Our landshare is also being used by a few other families, and it’s on friends’ property with an amazing set up. They have a fully functioning sustainable sawmil (fed by arborist prunings etc), that feeds a large biochar kiln, that powers a 10kw gasifier etc etc. The garden is exceptional, and grows a huge amount of veg and hundreds of varieties of fruit – everything from pineapples to cherries. We’ve done a few workshops and farm tours, so if you’re ever looking to host an event up this way sing out. We’d be keen to help spread the permaculture message into the most conservative electorate in the country!

    Love your work!

    Justin

  2. Posted December 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Love it guys, thank you so so much. Your support is so well received. Merry Christmas.
    From the Harvest team

  3. Posted December 17, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Love the look of that cold smoker!

  4. pamela tilbrook
    Posted December 18, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink | Reply

    Even some of us so called “conservatives” are doing our part in adopting permaculture principles and philosophies on our farms to achieve greater sustainability and reduce our impact and footprint on the environment.

  5. Posted December 18, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink | Reply

    I would prefer to eat at a cafe that did some of its own growing but also supported local growers in a community supported agriculture kind of way. This helps to make for a more resilient community, spreads the money around and means that the raw ingredients the cafe sources is also available for everyone to buy. This is part of the future of food where businesses are connected to the community and to other businesses and all is interwoven, keeping everyone employed.

  6. pamela tilbrook
    Posted December 18, 2013 at 8:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Agreed. Kate Flint has described the bigger picture well.

  7. Peta Hudson
    Posted January 8, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Kirsten! Could you tell me what is being grown in between the rows of kale in the top photo? Green manure crop?

    • Posted January 8, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink | Reply

      Ah that’s just the un-weeded path i think – mostly chickweed from memory :)

  8. Posted January 30, 2014 at 5:53 am | Permalink | Reply

    This is the real life. Just freshness and healthfulness. That is our sole need.

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