Tucked away in Newrybar in Northern NSW, Australia is Harvest Deli and Restaurant, a house of culinary experience for locals and travellers.

For the past eleven years, owners Brooke Hudson and Tristan and Kassia Grier have pioneered the landscape of building a sustainable business with all things considered; from waste strategy to recently employing a full-time forager. We caught up with Tristan to get the lowdown on their sustainability initiatives and how they started down this path.

Tell us about Harvest?

Harvest is a living breathing organism which is community-based and people based. Its function or its end product is food – the service of food and the feeling around food. But ultimately that’s just the tip of the iceberg – Harvest Deli, Harvest Bakery and the growing side of Harvest is really the depth behind all of that.

It’s really interesting, particularly at Harvest, how much goes into serving something that is really bright, fresh and clean on a plate. Harvest is one of those businesses that invest into every single step and that has been our mantra from the start.

How and when did you start off in the world of sustainability?

We were fortunate enough to get launched into this eleven years ago when forced into having to treat our own grey water on site as this was a ‘country’ site. Everyone else in the city flushes the toilet and it comes out somewhere near Manly and we were like, ‘hold on a second, we can see this as a big issue or we can look at it as the best thing that ever happened to us?’

"..hold on a second, we can see this as a big issue
or we can look at it as the best thing that ever happened to us?"

That’s how we started. From the grey water, everything has pushed forward. We’ve looked at every facet and know that everything can always get better. That’s the thing with sustainability, you can move your own goal posts. You set your three-month, six-month and one-year goals but whether you achieve them or not, it’s about that road that you’re taking.

And since then, what else are you up to?

We are doing a good job with solar power, composting and with onsite water carbonating. We are also limiting our food miles; our bakery and our deli are onsite. We buy in bulk and always aim to localise our economy.

From there we can stand here and think these things are the founding blocks of what sustainability is, but what’s next? And how do you find out what that is? How do you inspire people in that process and how do you actually stay relevant as a hospitality establishment? In that framework, it’s also about trying to be on the forefront of excitement within sustainability.

"It’s shifting that scenario –
let’s eat our issues, rather than poisoning them!"

You’ve recently employed a full-time forager?

Yes - Peter Hardwick. He’s been foraging in the area for 40 years and has really driven us into where we are going next. And that is not just sustainable and not just seasonal and not just ethical, but is also where the indigenous side fits in. Understanding how the wild and feral side of things. When I say ‘feral’, I mean ‘eating our issues’ is a big part of where we are heading.

For example, Madeira Vine grows through the back of our property and Pete is trying to crack how do we eat the vine that is a problematic weed. So, rather than looking at the vine as a problem that is going to cost me $5000 to get people to pull it all down and bag it up, how do we turn that into a food source? How do we benefit from that? It’s shifting that scenario – let’s eat our issues, rather than poisoning them!

Where to start?

There’s no right or wrong way to start the journey towards becoming a more sustainable business – you just have to take the first step. Here are Tristan’s tips to help guide you in the right direction.

Engage with the people around you | As a small business owner, you’re tired and worn out on new ideas. But the next group of people are young and passionate and are full of ideas. This is their future! Ask them what they would do? Ride on their backs. They’re going to have the best suggestions. Give it to them to own and put them in charge of the change. Really drive change through the younger generation because they want to see change more than anything.

Be honest in your process | When you are honest in this process, you’re going to need to take a good look in the mirror. If you’re not part of the change, you’re not part of where this society needs to go.

Look for support and government grants | There are a lot of great people, whether it’s beehives on the roof, composting or picking up your coffee grinds. There are a lot of great people turning business on with these issues. Especially within cities, you’ll find people that want to come to you and fix these problems for you.

We also caught up with Tristan earlier in the year to chat all things community & coffee. Grab a coffee and watch the recap above. 

Lastly, to keep up with Harvest, follow their journey on Instagram. Photos for this story by Sian Campbell and words by Brooke Holtz.