Restau­ra­teur and food pro­ducer Pal­isa An­der­son is en­joy­ing the chal­lenge of grow­ing her own in­gre­di­ents at her fam­ily’s farm in the By­ron Bay hin­ter­land.

PAL­ISA AN­DER­SON HAS gone from en­thu­si­as­tic gar­dener — some­one who plants out what­ever patch of soil they can sink their hands into, wher­ever they hap­pen to be liv­ing — to fully fledged mar­ket gar­dener with 46 hectares in the By­ron Bay hin­ter­land. Pal­isa’s de­sire to grow food se­ri­ously first took hold six years ago when she re­placed her camel­lias and roses with fruit trees and ripped up the lawn to in­stall a chicken run in the gar­den of the Syd­ney du­plex she shares with hus­band Matt, their chil­dren So­raya, nine, and Arthur, eight. The project started out in­no­cently enough as a gar­den that would feed her fam­ily (an un­in­tended con­se­quence was fat­ten­ing up the lo­cal wildlife; pos­sums were reg­u­lar visi­tors to the gar­den). As the gar­den blos­somed, so did Pal­isa’s de­sire to grow food for a wider au­di­ence — her cus­tomers. Pal­isa, 36, and Matt, 48, had re­cently re­turned to Aus­tralia from liv­ing in Ja­pan to join the fam­ily restau­rant busi­ness started by Pal­isa’s mother Amy Chanta, who opened her first restau­rant Chat Thai in Syd­ney in 1989. To­day there are nine ea­ter­ies in the group, in­clud­ing the pop­u­lar Boon Café, and an Asian gro­cer, Jar­ern Chai. “Amy is an amaz­ing busi­ness woman,” says Matt. “We’ve learned a lot from her, and we’ve also bought things to the busi­ness that we recog­nised were needed.” As a for­mer lawyer, Matt has found a nat­u­ral fit in fi­nan­cial plan­ning, strat­egy and other back of­fice tasks, while Pal­isa — along­side her mother — is across ev­ery­thing from menus to mar­ket­ing. Find­ing the vol­ume of fruits and veg­eta­bles re­quired by all nine busi­nesses is one thing, but find­ing spe­cial­ist Asian in­gre­di­ents grown with­out the use of chem­i­cals is an­other, as Pal­isa and Amy dis­cov­ered when they trav­elled to the North­ern Ter­ri­tory and Far North Queens­land to meet farm­ers who would po­ten­tially grow food on their be­half. “It made sense to find some­one to grow food for us but so many farm­ers used chem­i­cals and that’s not what we wanted,” Pal­isa says. “At home and at the restau­rant, we cook what we want to eat and we’re al­ways look­ing for bet­ter qual­ity. Farm­ing is a hard busi­ness. It re­quires in­ten­sive labour for lit­tle re­turn and in­creas­ingly, there are fewer grow­ers, so you can un­der­stand why they’d use chem­i­cals to meet de­mand. Who’s go­ing to spend time weed­ing?” Weed­ing is ex­actly what Pal­isa, Matt and the chil­dren do now that they’re farm­ers. They bought Boon Luck Farm at Tya­garah in 2016 and grow a con­stant sup­ply of spe­cial­ist Thai in­gre­di­ents, such as holy basil, ap­ple egg­plant and be­tel leaves, for the restau­rants. “Very few peo­ple grow Asian in­gre­di­ents at this scale and no-one I know does it or­gan­i­cally,” says Pal­isa. For Amy and Pal­isa there’s also the cul­tural im­per­a­tive to grow the in­gre­di­ents that make a Thai dish iden­ti­fi­ably Thai. The farm is ver­dant, pro­lific, alive. Every square cen­time­tre of earth has been called on to pro­duce. “The soil is so good, it feels like cheat­ing,” says Pal­isa. Herbs and other greens are grown in 100-me­tre long poly­tun­nels. Fruit trees, vines and bushes thrive in a net­ted or­chard; an in­vest­ment de­signed to keep cock­a­toos and bats at bay. “We are very lucky to live this dual life,” Pal­isa says. “When we’re in By­ron, which is of­ten, our time is spent do­ing >

manual labour. Pulling weeds and tend­ing to this land gives you a dif­fer­ent sense of who you are in the world and what it is that makes us hu­man. Every­one wants a con­nec­tion with na­ture whether we know it or not.” “You don’t do it for the money,” she con­tin­ues. “I picked 10 kilo­grams of chilli to­day and it took me six hours. I ask my­self if we’re do­ing this for the right rea­sons and I al­ways an­swer yes. It’s im­por­tant to grow plants that are out of favour be­cause they don’t con­form to our tastes or the sys­tem. We can’t let the su­per­mar­kets win.” Boon Luck Farm is more than a food pro­duc­tion hub for the restau­rants, it’s now also the fam­ily’s part-time home. Mak­ing the farm’s sin­gle storey 1980s brick house a home was ac­com­plished with the help of in­te­rior de­signer Ge­nine Noakes. Ren­o­va­tions took four months — they pol­ished the con­crete floors, in­stalled new win­dows and doors, made changes to some walls to im­prove the flow, and added a third bath­room. Some of the fur­ni­ture and dec­o­ra­tive pieces came up from Syd­ney — the good kitchen pots and knives, books, beds and so­fas — and the rest was found at auc­tion or pur­pose-built. Very lit­tle was bought new. “We wanted a home that was com­fort­able, that had places for peo­ple to sprawl and com­mu­nal spa­ces where we could gather,” says Pal­isa. “It was a push and pull be­tween what we wanted and our re­sources and I think we got it right.” Pal­isa loves the farm for the sim­ple fact that it al­lows her fam­ily to eat what they grow, work and cook to­gether. Life here is lived in the slow lane. “When I fly to Syd­ney I take By­ron with me,” says Pal­isa. “When we look to the fu­ture we def­i­nitely see our lives as agrar­ian.” Fol­low @boon­luck­farm on In­sta­gram.

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