Orchardists Katie and Beau Baddock combined with former health food owners Danielle and Lucas Martin to create the Agrestic Grocer in August of 2013, a business that is greater than the sum of its parts.
In a way the union of these two businesses is born of frustration. The Martin’s could see that the answer for most people’s health problems could be solved by adopting a whole-food diet, rather than just popping pills, whilst the Baddock’s, living in a flat in Sydney and helping Katie’s father at farmer’s markets in the city, yearned to become farmers themselves.
In 2008 the Baddock’s took that leap and moved to Orange and started orcharding, a move that meant that what work means, suddenly changed.
“Working for yourself was really hard,” Beau explains “You go from getting a weekly pay cheque to working 12 – 15 hour days doing work that needs to be done, rather than just for money.”
Coming from the city, full of ideas about how orcharding should be done meant that they came across some resistance from local long-term farmers.
“Dealing with generational farmers was difficult. We weren’t accepted by some of the long-term farmers who were using old school techniques that they had developed over time by trial and error.”
Out at Nashdale, the 16 acre property keeps the Baddocks busy. “We have 5,000 trees and it’s a multi-use orchard with pears, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears, figs and up to 12 varieties of apples.”
The produce boxes, the very same box that brought the union together, are still selling strong.
“It was through the produce boxes that we sold through Danielle and Lucas’s old health food store that we started talking about opening a cafe – store,” Beau explained. “Those produce boxes are still keeping us busy.”
When we first spoke in 2013, the team had plans for a market garden and a mushroom shed, but as the business has evolved, plans are changing.
“The cafe is a lot busier than we expected,” Beau said “and functions have taken off.”
The first year though hasn’t been without it’s problems. Staffing issues and fresh product management have been two of the challenges they’ve had to face.
“We had a coolroom breakdown which ruined $4,000 in food and with fresh produce you do get a lot of wastage.”
To counter the food wastage, the team are introducing a range of ready cooked meals for takeaway. Soups, casseroles, curries and more are now being created by their new head chef.
The Agrestic Grocer though is all about the food and it’s a terrific array that they now have.
Locals beers and wines adorned the shelves, fresh produce fills the old chiller room and the fridge racks groan with local meats and dairy produce. Pepe Saya Butter, Little Big Dairy and Country Valley Milk along with Second Mouse Cheese keep the dairy munchers happy. To cope with seasonal gluts they’ve also introduced their own range of chutneys and jams to utilise nature’s bounty.
The emphasis is on local produce and Beau is honest as to the foods provenance and chemical status.
“I can’t see the point of bringing organic apples all the way from South Australia, which is the only place you can grow them, when we can drive out to Nashdale and bring fresh apples from there. It should be all about reducing food miles and bringing the best local produce here to sell,” Beau said.
As part of the Agrestic Grocer’s commitment to local food they also accept fresh garden grown produce from some of the local schools kitchen gardens.
“We provide them with goods that they can’t make, like olive oil, in exchange for excess garden produce that they can’t cook. It’s a terrific way to eliminate waste and share the bounty,” Beau said.
The proximity of Orange Anglican Grammar, and the school’s lack of a canteen, has also opened up the opportunity to provide the school with lunches.
Orange markets itself as a premium food and wine district and venues like the Agrestic Grocer are integral in that promotion. Without a central place for fresh produce and a distributor for all value-added goodies, our food industry will stagnate and become a disparate group of enthusiasts with limited access to markets.
The Agrestic Grocer fills that brief perfectly. Sure the idea of small scale orchardists, brewers, cheese makers, dip makers and other small scale producers taking on the behemoths of Coles and Woollies is a tad Goliath, but therein lies the beauty. If you shop at the Agrestic Grocer you can sit back and not only enjoy better produce, but you see the line that your dollar draws in the soil, straight from your pocket into the producers.
The Agrestic Grocer is at 426 Mitchell Highway which is otherwise known as the Molong Road and also as the road to Dubbo.
It’s opposite the turn off to Orange Anglican Grammar.
To contact them call 6360 4604