So if it’s not a rude question, what precisely are Martin and Pam Brook, a former film company executive and a dentist, doing owning a macadamia farm? Well, pursuing their passion for good food to start with. And enjoying a more balanced lifestyle. Not to mention doing their bit to save the planet. It all goes back to 1988, when the Melbourne-based Brooks bought a 40ha former dairy farm in the hills behind Byron Bay. A hobby farm, if you like, but one they hoped to turn into a business. The rich volcanic soil, high rainfall and warm sub-tropical climate meant it was ideal for growing macadamias, which are native to the area.
Martin and Pam’s farm, however, was seriously degraded and largely overrun by camphor laurels and lantana. It did have a small pocket of remnant rainforest, though. They’ve spent the best part of the next decade planting and nurturing 4500 macadamia trees and beginning a massive land restoration program that has involved planting more than 30,000 subtropical rainforest and eucalypt trees. In the process, they have created a haven for birds and a habitat for all manner of wildlife, including koalas, echidnas and platypus. And they have built Brookfarm into an internationally recognised and accoladed food producer.
“It takes 10 years for a macadamia tree to mature,” Pam explains. “So we always knew developing the orchard was going to be a long-term plan. In the early days we imagined we were going to set the world alight with our macadamia oil mayonnaise. But we just couldn’t achieve the consistency of quality we wanted, so we looked to developing macadamia oils and other macadamia products.”
The decision to move into muesli and macadamia-based trekking mixes was inspired by Pam’s late father, Mick Hull, one of Australia’s pioneers of downhill skiing. Mick skied until he was 84 and at the age of 79 came second in the world over-70s Giant Slalom championships in Austria. Mick loved muesli and never went into the bush without a packet of trail mix, or scroggin as he called it, in his pocket. So the Brookfarm label now boasts a full range of toasted and natural mueslis and the Walkabout range of trekking mixes, all based in the highest-quality nuts, grains, fruit and Belgian chocolate.
Brookfarm now has a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility on the outskirts of Byron Bay and its products are now sold all over Australia and exported to destinations as diverse as the US, UK, Sweden, Germany, Japan, Canada, Hong Kong, India and the Maldives, as well as boasting the breakfast cereal of choice on Qantas flights.
This story was originally published in Australian Country issue 15.1. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.
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Words Kirsty McKenzie
Photography Ken Brass