A generational family business that proudly supports local farmers, Byron Bay-based Brookfarm sources as many ingredients as possible from within Australia for its range of quality products, from farms practising sustainable farming.
Owner and CEO Will Brook took over the reins at Brookfarm from his parents, Pam and Martin Brook, in 2018. A family dream to move to the country and a passion for quality healthy food sparked Pam and Martin to buy a run-down Byron Bay dairy farm in 1988, transforming it into a working macadamia farm and regenerating an ancient sub-tropical rainforest. Brookfarm is now committed to creating more jobs in regional communities and is proud to employ over 75 local staff across three facilities. Mr Brook talks to us about the origins of the farm where the company operates, the ethos of sustainability at the core of Brookfarm’s products, and the new family venture investing in climate action projects to reduce carbon from the environment.
“We’re in the month of our 20th birthday,” Mr Brook says. “Brookfarm was started by my parents, Pam and Martin – thirty years ago we bought this farm, which ended up being degraded and covered with weeds. There was nothing going on, and it wasn’t well loved.”
With Pam working as a dentist and Martin as a film director and producer, the couple began the enterprise with no farming experience, but received excellent advice to plant macadamias and regenerate a patch of rainforest on the farm.
“That’s where the love of the land really started, and ten years after that we were passionate macadamia farmers. We had this beautiful nut, but it was basically just being processed, exported and sent off for other people to enjoy. We really wanted to get it into people’s homes every day, and that’s where we started with our first products.”
The family developed a toasted cranberry and gluten-free macadamia muesli, and began selling it at markets. Since then the company has grown, with its products now being sold nationally through independent supermarkets like IGA Supermarkets and Harris Farm Markets, quality grocers and through a number of other channels, including export and airlines.
“All of our recipes are created by us – by Pam in the family kitchen. It takes a lot of love and care, and that’s what we do up in Byron at Brookfarm. About forty different recipes that we have now, spanning across a real wide variety of products.”
The drive behind the products is always great taste, using the very best fresh ingredients, baked to perfection. From snacks to mueslis to cereals, Brookfarm provides products that taste as good as if they’d been made at home.
“[During the pandemic] it’s been really up and down for Brookfarm,” Mr Brook says. “We felt some of the heat from COVID-19 really early. China is one of the larger countries that we export to. The people in China really love Brookfarm, and so in February we started to see that direct impact from COVID-19, as China shut down.”
Many of Brookfarm’s important domestic customers, such as food service, cafes and airlines, are still having a tough time of things, and Mr Brook feels for many of these places that have been loyal customers over the years.
“A lot of people who’ve been with us since day one, since twenty years ago, many have been able to pivot, some haven’t. So we’ve had challenges from that point of view. Our ability to export isn’t hampered too much now as the world is starting to open up, which is great to see, but we’ve been really well supported domestically by our loyal customers.”
We, The Many*
One of the Brook family’s key values is to use sustainable environmental farming practices to achieve success protecting the environment and helping the community, which has been ingrained in their businesses from the very start.
“It often baffles me that we’re [saying to people] this would be really beneficial if we recycled this, or maybe we should get this from a sustainable source, or maybe we should source this locally rather than going overseas. For me, that should be normal business practice.”
Brookfarm prides itself on producing high quality products that always start with sustainably, and this ethos stretches to all things in the business, right from manufacture through to all other aspects of the company.
“Our roof is completely covered in solar panels; we make sure that we optimise their use. We want to make sure we’re using our water efficiently. We recycle everything; we’re on the front foot in packaging, in being able to bring a recyclable bag to the market. So that’s something that’s completely ingrained in everything we do, and that comes from our farm.”
Pam and Martin still live on the farm, continuing to regenerate the rainforest there and growing macadamias as they did years earlier. This has given the company a solid bedrock on how to run all of the businesses that it’s involved with, something it takes great pride in.
“One of the frustrations that I’ve had,” Mr Brook says, “is how do we even better integrate sustainability and the prevention of climate change, or the reduction of carbon – how do you completely intertwine that with a business?”
The answer to this question is a new business venture called We, The Many*, which Mr Brook is undertaking with the rest of the Brook family – Pam, Martin and brother Eddie, who runs sister business Cape Byron Distillery – along with two of the founders of Byron Bay brewery Stone & Wood.
“At We, The Many*, all of our products are carbon neutral, but on top of that we’re investing 50% of the profits into carbon reduction products. The idea here is if you’re a consumer, what are those small choices that you can make that are better for the environment? We want to give people the responsibility back in their purchasing decisions.”
Rather than just donating these profits, We, The Many* will invest into businesses that are reducing carbon from the atmosphere, meaning it then has a stake in those businesses doing the right thing, and doing it well and sustainably.
“The bigger goal is to give people the idea that they can take on some of the responsibility for the future of the planet. Climate change can seem like such a daunting thing, and we often export our responsibility to political leaders or to bigger businesses. I feel that every individual plays their part. I want to play my part via the businesses that I become a part of.”
As a company, Brookfarm is looking to inspire people to make a healthier choice, whether it’s for the environment or for their own personal health and well-being. Mr Brook admits these are lofty goals, but they are ones he strives towards every day.
“One thing that’s so important for me, in all of our businesses, is that idea of supporting Australian-made. What I would encourage anyone to do is make a little investment in Australia by supporting those who are supporting the Australian farmers, and supporting regional industry.”
Brookfarm is a reasonably small business, employing around 75 staff, and it is key for the area that it can provide skills for both those just out of school looking to get into the job market, and those already with high skills looking to develop them.
“You may end up paying a little bit more for an Australian-made product,” Mr Brook concludes. “But the cost isn’t in margin, the cost is in the quality of the product and the quality of the ingredients. That’s one thing that is key about what we do here at Brookfarm.”
With a focus on doing the right thing and a drive to deliver the very best products in the most sustainable manner, Brookfarm is doing great things for Australian farming. Find out more about Brookfarm by visiting https://brookfarm.com.au/.