The Byron Shire has a particular reputation for being a vibrant and healthy place to live. The weekly farmers markets, the pristine beaches, the conscious community and the wealth of small local businesses that are invested in the health of others are just the beginning of the plethora of health and wellness on offer within this unique region. Terms such as organic, local, sustainable, eco and green go hand in hand with the Shire. Guests visit and leave, changed for the better by their tangible experience with healthy living.
While we may become complacent and take this lifestyle for granted, we really are within a minority where local and organic farm-fresh produce is available on our doorstep, quite literally, with the team at Munch Crunch Organics. Starting out with one acre of organic vegetables under cultivation in 2007, Munch Crunch Organics now collaborates with other local organic growers and co-farms five acres of organic vegetables and approximately 800 fruit trees in the Byron Hinterland and supplies the local community with pesticide free, freshly harvested, locally grown, nutrient dense, certified organic food.
For Alasdair Smithson, the founder of Munch Crunch, providing the local community with wholesome produce is only one of his goals. Passionate to support other small local farms and encourage young people to get involved in organic farming, Alasdair has banded together a collective of farmers that work together to offer customers seasonal organic produce boxes delivered to their doorstep. This network of farms uses Munch Crunch’s warehouse in the industrial estate as a central hub, a place where they can deliver their harvest each week and have access to another more reliable income outside of the weekly farmers markets.
“Farming is a complete gamble,” Alasdair explains, “We are at the hands of the elements – long droughts, heavy rains, flash hailstorms- any of these can wipe out your entire crop and livelihood.” The markets, while popular and supported by the local community, are also unpredictable in their very nature, “ Every week is different, today for example,” Alasdair gestures outside at the pouring rain, “we will take in half the amount that we would on a sunny day.”
Having lost a few entire crops to weather over the years, Alasdair figured there was greater safety in numbers, and in an attempt to reduce these risks and create a more stable income, Alasdair began the weekly home delivery service farming alone, but now draws on several local organic farms to help fill the popular seasonal boxes. “It’s a close knit community,” Alasdair states, referring to the organic farmers. “We tend to band together,” he laughs. With the challenges that face organic farmers it is near impossible to sustain a farm that produces a large variety of thriving produce.
Therefore the idea behind the farmers collective allows small to medium-sized farms to bring to the table the produce they focus on. “We work with a banana farmer, one that focuses on leafy greens, another that produces tomatoes, then we also have Sol Breads who offer their range of organic bread and Barambah Organics that offers their organic dairy products. This variety encourages diversity and a focus on seasonal produce and also allows people to create their own custom boxes.”
The Munch Crunch aim is to work within a 200km radius of Byron Shire with their farmers to ensure what they offer their customers is fresh and has covered minimal food miles. “The produce is picked Monday or Tuesday and is being packed into boxes and delivered either the same day or the following day. This means only 24 hours have passed from farm to fork,” Alasdair states with pride. The locality of his produce and the organic certification that each farm holds is of utmost importance to Alasdair. “It’s a good feeling to be able to look your customer in the eye and without hesitation state that everything is certified organic.” With grey areas appearing over what is ‘organic’ or ‘spray-free,’ Alasdair likes to keep things clear and simple: ‘There is no third-party regulatory body over anything non-certified organic. No one is checking these farms,” explains Alasdair.
The certified farms that collaborate with Munch Crunch are subjected to yearly audits and random spot checks to ensure that everything complies with the strict organic regulations. As a humble farm, growing small business and a social enterprise, Munch Crunch is also unique in its desire to merge the advancements in modern technology with the principals of grassroots organic farming.
With a large and interactive social media following, Munch Crunch is able to reach a large audience through technological platforms that are commonplace in this fast-paced, tech-driven society. Hash-tagging the words #organic #seasonal and #local in their Facebook and Instagram posts, Munch Crunch shares striking pictures of their organic crops, their weekly vegetable boxes, daily action on the farm and a host of mouth watering meals made by happy customers with the contents of their weekly boxes.
Bringing the farm into the world of posts, tweets, pins and tags, Munch Crunch is able to utilise social media to merge their old fashioned customer service with fast paced modern life. “Customer service remains the crux of our business,”Alasdair states. “We love having someone who lives organic and eats organic turn up at your door with a huge smile and box of fresh veggies.” Well, who wouldn’t?!
Margreet Wiegers, who manages Munch Crunch’s social media and marketing, anticipates the arrival of her own weekly seasonal box every week. “I enjoy cooking a lot more than I used to,” she laughs. “Its like Ready Steady Cook – I open my fridge and see what I can create!” Growing up in Holland, Margreet states that she eats much healthier and lighter than she used to: “It used to be rice, pasta or potatoes and then maybe some salad or vegetables on the side. Now vegetables are at the core of my meals, with maybe some quinoa or couscous on the side!”
For the team at Munch Crunch education is at the core of their unique social enterprise and sharing information, articles, recipes and tips for healthy living is included in their weekly newsletters and blog posts. “With every first box ordered we send out information on the best ways to store your fruit and vegetables and what to make at the end of the week with the vegetables that you may have left over.” Teaming up with local chef and nutritionist Alison Drover from ‘Love Food, Hate Waste,’ Munch Crunch also offers its customers great ways to make the most out of their produce. “People often say that buying organic is more expensive, but really you just have to know how to utilise your organic produce to get the most out of it.” Being more nutritionally dense than conventional produce, organic fruit and vegetables really do offer your body and the environment a great deal of benefits from a greater intake of vitamins and minerals, to healthier land, water and air. “Its not just what you get out of organic produce,” Alasdair explains, “It’s also the things you don’t get – the pesticides, the herbicides, the GMO’s.” In a day and age where politics and financial return interferes with the way farmers produce their food, it is becoming more and more important to support certified organic farms.
Despite its passionate stance on organics, Munch Crunch is not about dictating to people what they should and shouldn’t eat. Instead it offers people education about the best fruit and vegetables to buy organic and encourage the notion that every little action is a step in the right direction, “Even if you can only order a seasonal box once in a while, every little bit helps,” says Margreet. Nevertheless, Munch Crunch does believe that after a month of eating organic local produce, you can notice a difference, and this is the crux of its brand new September Challenge. The four-week challenge invites customers to order a seasonal box with them for four consecutive weeks. Upon signing up, customers are gifted a cookbook written as a collaborative project by Alasdair and chef Alison, weekly emails with information, tips and recipes and also a generous 50% off their final box for the month.
Munch Crunch believes that the benefits of the four-week challenge are not limited to personal health and wellbeing, rather they extend to the farmers and to the environment at large, as Alasdair explains: “Farmers are being paid a fair price for their produce, less carbon emissions are being released into the atmosphere, the customer is consuming more nutrients and less pesticides -everyone wins.” To experience the benefits of Munch Crunch’s seasonal organic boxes yourself, sign up for the challenge here.
Make sure you also join them on Facebook and Instagram for their latest vibrant updates. To dive a little deeper into the benefits of organic produce compared to conventional produce plus a delicious recipe using the contents of a Munch Crunch organic seasonal box, visit Bella & Bhakti here>>