“We set out to establish a ‘one stop shop’ for sustainable living, providing good food to our community at the most affordable prices” says Kev Doye, co-owner (with wife Lowanna) of Kombu Wholefoods in Bellingen, a goal which the very happy local customers would agree has been achieved. But since its inception 13 years ago, Kombu Wholefoods has also been instrumental in the growth of the local organic food production industry and now boasts a healthy cooperative with numerous local growers.
“We believe that good health is dependent on many things, but a key ingredient (if you’ll excuse the pun!) is good, fresh food – ideally organic. Choosing to source food locally is a natural – the money stays in the local community, the food is fresher, there are less food miles, and we get to live in a vibrant, more sustainable local community,” says Kevin. “Megan Gale is our Manager and Local Produce Coordinator and does an amazing job. She works with all our local producers and coordinates the wide range of produce that comes into store each week. She also supports our growers; answering questions, connecting them up with other growers and negotiating prices that work not only for our customers in store but also for the growers. It’s not sustainable if the grower doesn’t have enough income to live on!”
Megan (seen above on left, with co-owner Lowanna), moved to Bellingen 12 years ago. “I’m inspired by the availability and diversity of local food. I feel very passionate about the many benefits of eating locally grown food, not only by reducing food miles but also the positive affect it has on our health to eat truly seasonal food grown in the very ground we walk on,” says Megan. Megan has been with the Kombu team for two years after her little ones started school. “Working at Kombu will help to make our family dream of owning a property and eventually becoming local organic producers, come to fruition. I love the ethos behind Kombu and the value Kev & Lowanna place on making beautiful, healthy and local food available to the community.”
Guy Crossley has been a grower of organic produce from his Bundageree property for more than 20 years and is one of Kombu’s most trusted local suppliers. “Guy radiates passion when you get him talking about his produce, and this shows in the quality of the food he grows. He is a wealth of information, and speaks of the fun, challenges and joy of every stage of growing food- from watching seeds sprout into life, to delivering beautiful, seasonal, organic produce to this community (always with a HUGE smile on his face!)” says Megan.
The Tomasi family moved to Thora 14 years ago and began turning their paddocks into an edible garden.
Over the past 2 years they too have become one of Kombu’s major suppliers of fresh food. “They are passionate about eating yummy, clean produce (grown without chemical laden fertilizers or pesticides) and enjoy producing good quality food for themselves and their community. They are also strong advocates for ‘eating local’ and it’s positive impacts on the environment & local economy,” says Megan.
“It makes sense to us that locally grown food is what we need to eat and are delighted that Kombu encourage the community to do so,” says Alli Tomasi. Environmental welfare is at the forefront of their growing venture, as they utilise birds, insects and diverse planting to naturally support the ecosystem.
The Tomasi’s currently supply Kombu with Kale, fresh herbs, fresh turmeric, oranges, limes, mandarins, ruby grapefruit, daikon radish, rocket, globe artichokes and plums!
Kombu Wholefoods also supports those growers newer to the game. Phil and Nicole of ‘The Source Organics’ gave up their fast paced Sydney life for a lifestyle change where they could “provide a public service according to our own ethical standards” says Phil. This saw them settling in the Bellinger Valley to produce healthy food for the local community in a manner that is not toxic to the environment. Even though fairly new to organic farming ‘The Source Organics’ now produce a major share of the eggplant, zucchini, heirloom tomatoes, kale, lettuce, fresh herbs, snow peas, silverbeet, pumpkin & cucumber sold seasonally in Kombu.
Megan works actively to seek out local growers and coordinate with growers to increase the diversity of local fruit and vegetables available to customers. “Despite the amazing growing abilities of our current local growers there are still many lines that we buy in from regional markets, so there is still a lot of room out there for other local growers to come on board,” admits Kev. “Even more exciting is when local growers come in to see us and ask us what we would like them to grow – working with us before they plant means there is a definite market for their produce, and allows us to source even more of our range locally.” Megan agrees. “We are always excited to welcome new growers.”
Kev acknowledges that this cooperative industry wouldn’t thrive without the ongoing support of the local community. “It’s an honour to be able to bring so many awesome products to this community,” says Kev. “Our real reward is seeing customers get excited over locally grown food, and watching baskets full of vibrant local fruit and veg go home with our beautiful customers!” says Megan.
Any local growers who would like to be part of this wonderful local enterprise should contact Megan: firstname.lastname@example.org