CG will be bringing you content from The Vista over the coming weeks, starting with this piece on the Church Farm General Store‘s Amanda Cullan and Andrew Morris, who have created a life that many of us dream of.
They have established their home in a restored church in northern NSW their unique property hosts a natural ecosystem, growing organic flowers and vegetables both to eat and to make beautiful body products. Julia Ashwood chats to them…
Amanda, we loved visiting your unique home in northern NSW. We came for tea and stayed for lunch, I’m sure that happens a lot! Oh it was so lovely to have you over and we are always after an excuse to make spinach pie! There is usually something going on in the oven and we are just off the highway on the way to byron, so we get a few friendly drop ins.
We would love to know more about how you came to find this sacred place and the hard work you and Andrew have both done to make it your own… It was all pretty spooky really. Andrew and I had been talking about/dreaming of getting an old Queenslander home or an old church and relocating it onto a block of land. That very afternoon we were going for a lazy drive with my parents and turned into Billinudgel and dad said ‘oh imagine if this church was for sale’…and then we saw the ‘for sale’ sign with a mobile phone number on the front of the building and called straight away. We purchased the place straight from the catholic church, they had only advertised it in the local trading post, no real estates or anything! There were a few speed bumps with the local council but it all turned out well in the end, and we have just been slowly chipping away at converting it into our home, it definitely helps that Andrew knows his way around a tool shed!
“Sea change” or “tree change” as many now know it is often just a beautiful dreamy thought for city dwellers…envisaging leaving the big smoke behind and creating a new world on the land. You are a lovely example of making this dream come true. What was it that sparked this transformation for you? I’m sure meeting your soulmate and little Banjo had a lot to do with it x Ohh yes definitely… dreamy thoughts/obsessions. I could see it all in my head. I was just dreaming of living with a bit more space, less traffic, being able to find a car park! ha, growing my own food, jars of pickles in the kitchen… and then when I met Andrew it just made sense to move here. He is a bit of a swagman, happiest with a fishing rod or a surf board, so it seemed like a good pick. And being around nature really calms me, I was getting quite rattled in the big smoke. We didn’t really know anyone here so I guess in hindsight it was a bold move, but I don’t think we really cared about that at the time, we were pretty loved up and then we found out Banjo was on his way so it all kinda just fell into place.
We have watched your business ‘Church Farm General Store’ grow from strength to strength. What was it which introduced you to this line of work? tell us a little more about the philosophy behind it and perhaps future plans… It has been so unexpected how it has all turned out. i think it all started form our roadside stall… we were growing lots of veggies and greens and selling them in our front yard and it was really fun! we would get so excited when people would leave with a bunch of greens or an armful of zucchinis, theres’s something about sharing excess food thats really rewarding.
Andrew is a great gardener and a seed saver, he has this nerdy box that takes up almost a whole shelf in the fridge with seeds he has collected over the years! And I have always been into the power of plants and herbal medicine and am in the midst of studying to be a naturopath, so being able to grow my own herbs and plants for soaps and other concoctions is like a dream come true! We don’t have many plans really, only to convert the entire world to using homegrown natural skin products and eating organic food!
Your beautiful garden provides food for your kitchen and ingredients for your products. It must feel wonderful creating your own ecosystem here and knowing the source of all you produce… It’s been a learning curve, figuring out what works and doesn’t work.. i guess thats the beauty of it though. Knowing where food comes from is really important to us and we really want Banjo to know where food comes from too. He has been a big part of our plans, we encourage him to get down and dirty in the garden as much as possible, so that is pretty wonderful to watch! and it does feel good wandering outside filling up a big basket and coming inside to cook a meal, we definitely miss it when we’re away from home. But anyone can do it! I’ve seen the best gardens in the smallest backyards!
What do you believe is the the most inspiring thing about living in Northern NSW. How do you feel this area and its people have changed or influenced your life? I really think the community here and the farmers markets makes this place, especially the New Brighton & Mullumbimby farmers markets. We didn’t know anyone when we first came here and now some of the farmers are like family to us. And also being part of a community who puts the environment first, the efforts of the locals who acted to protect the land and waterways against coal seam gas mining was so inspiring, and we will be forever grateful for that. Because what is more important than clean air and water? The locals are always fighting for whats best for the land and the future generations, whether thats keeping fluoride out of our drinking water or protecting precious farm land, and its really great to live in an area where people care about the important stuff.
You can learn more about Church Farm General Store and order their yummy products here.
You can download The Vista’s wanderlust guide to Byron Bay and surrounds here.
Film by Nathan Oldfield | Photos by Sybil Steele