“I definitely feel supported by our Byron mum-village. Most of our mates are raising kids while running their own businesses and everyone is really supportive of each other. There is something about this area that attracts great humans. Every day I thank my lucky stars we live where we live.” Amanda Callan, co-founder of Church Farm General Store, mum to Banjo and Percy and a newly-found “murfer” (mum-surfer), explains the lure and community spirit of her hometown in Byron Bay...
After buying a church in Billnudgel with partner Andrew, the couple fell into producing their own herbs, soaps and sauces as a matter of necessity, and have now turned their hobby into a blossoming business. “One weekend we built a little roadside stall to offload some of these things to our neighbours, and from there a few shops got into contact and it has grown organically from there (pardon the pun).”
Her tale is a wonderful reminder that life can often take you in directions you never thought possible (or even considered!). Read on for more on living slowly (and what that actually means) and why fresh produce and sunshine are all you really need for happiness and health.
Describe life at the moment - how are you juggling two boys with a thriving business?
Banjo and Percy are full of energy and work has been quite busy lately so to make it work we just try and be fully focused on what we are doing. For example, if I have the kids I try not to check my emails, and if I’m working at the warehouse I try not to check on the kids! I actually really love working, and I also really love being a mum… if I can get the right balance then that’s ace. Some days the juggle can feel more like a struggle, but breathing through the highs and lows gets us through every time.
Your lifestyle seems to personify the idea of “slow living” - how would you define this and is it really as idyllic as it seems?
When things are really busy with work Andrew and I will laugh and say “hey, how’s about this slow living”, because somehow we think it should mean sitting around with nothing to do except reading books, playing records or surfing all day. If you look up the slow movement it stands for sustainable, local, organic and whole and is about having little impact, shopping local and avoiding mass produced and processed things. I actually didn’t know about that acronym until the other day, but this is something we strive for both in our home life and with our business so I guess we are slow living in that sense.
Did you always see yourself as being creative and running your own business?
Well, I started studying nutrition and herbal medicine about eight years ago in Sydney and if you asked me what I was going to do back then I would have said finish the degree and stay in the city. Then Andrew and I met, we bought a church in Billinudgel, had two kids and now we make soap and sauce for a living. Life is so random, I could never have predicted that. I am in my final year of the degree though, so who knows what lies ahead. Although I have never really seen myself as the creative type, my favourite subjects in high school were accounting and maths.
You make all the Church Farm products by hand and grow all your own produce - tell us how it all started…
When we moved into the church there was not one tree or plant on the whole property, it was a blank canvas for a wild gardening imagination. We were excited about planting native trees, fruit trees, vegetables, medicinal herbs and different varieties of chillis. After a pumping season in the garden, we had more produce than we could eat, so we dried a lot of herbs for tea and soap, and Andrew roasted a lot of chillis over coals and made sauces. One weekend we built a little roadside stall to offload some of these things to our neighbours, and from there a few shops got into contact and it has grown organically from there (pardon the pun).
There seems to be a real movement in the Byron community where families are getting back to basics and mothers are creating their own “village” of support. Can you expand on this - what is this dynamic like day to day?
I definitely feel supported by our Byron mum-village. Most of our mates are raising kids while running their own businesses and everyone is really supportive of each other. There is something about this area that attracts great humans. Every day I thank my lucky stars we live where we live.
Food is obviously a big part of your family’s life. How do you approach meals with your little ones - is there anything they won’t eat?
We always get the boys to help in the kitchen, even though sometimes it can be really difficult and takes a lot longer. If they pick their own veggies, then they eat them! It has been our greatest parenting hack. They go through stages with food, we don’t really let them ‘not eat’ anything, we just keep giving it to them. I read once that kids can be offered food 18 times before they like it, so we just run with that. Lucky we have a dog and chickens to eat the leftovers.
What are some of your favourite go-to snacks and meals for the family?
We make curry paste and tomato passata for a living, so you can probably imagine the amount of curry and moussaka we consume! Meals always involve a big salad as we always have lots of greens in the garden. Snacks for us and the boys are simple, just veggie sticks with dips, fruit, nuts, seeds, smoothies with bananas from our trees, the boys also love sugar snap peas when they are in season. If we are out and about then it’s buttery croissants and coconut chais.
What type of parent are you - do you follow a routine or go with the flow? How does this work for your family?
I’m definitely more go-with-the-flow than strict routine. I breastfed on demand, still co-sleep with Percy, never did any sleep training and used to walk around Billinudgel in the middle of the night pushing a pram so they wouldn’t cry. The only parenting book I have read is Nourishing Traditions and if we ever have another I’m sure my mama friends would have some better tips for me.
How do you share the parenting load with your partner, Andrew?
A lot of tag-teaming! Andrew has recently purchased a little boat and he likes to take the boys out fishing on the weekend. It is the best thing ever as they come home with dinner and I have hours to myself.
How do you handle the more stressful parts of parenting?
Our friend Jasson is a Vedic meditation teacher and we did a course with him about a year ago, and that has been super helpful on the parenting journey. Although, sometimes I just don’t feel like entering the internal world for 20 minutes, and that’s when you’ll find me hiding in the garden with a cup of tea. I recharge by spending time alone, so even if I can get a few minutes a day then that is useful.
You live a busy life, what is your definition of self-love and how do you make time for it?
Surfing with my murfer (mum-surfer) friends! We are all obsessed with surfing at the moment and we seem to be making a lot of time for it, possibly a little too much time!
What’s your approach to health and wellbeing?
Happiness, seasonal whole foods, herbs, fresh water and heaps of sunshine.
Has your own childhood impacted the way you parent today?
We had a great childhood, we grew up in Brisbane on the back of a bush reserve so we used to swim in the creeks, build cubbies, ride bikes, go bush walking, play on the street with the neighbours until mum called us in for dinner. I have the best memories of being outside all of the time and that is something we want for our kids, too.
Given your work and home life are so intrinsically linked, do you find it hard to switch off at the end of the day?
This is something we have to constantly keep check on, it is so easy to get home and slip into the habit of checking emails, talking about work, etc etc. We used to make everything from home which was great when the children were babies as I didn’t have to leave them to go to work.
Nowadays we have a warehouse in Mullumbimby where we make everything and package and send orders. For this stage of our life and business, separation is great.
Describe an ideal family weekend?
A caravan trip to an empty point break with some friends, campfires and good food.
hat’s coming up next for Church Farm General Store?
We have some new products in the works, and we’re planning a pop-up foodie weekend with some friends in one of the old community halls.
Finish this sentence - Motherhood is…
A roller coaster, but I love it.
Amanda’s Little List of Loves:
Andrew’s random selection of garden flowers for the vase in the kitchen.
Pumpkin roasted on the fire.
Our new painting by our friend Mia Taninaka.
Wild Wild country on Netflix.