This little missive contains some some rather substantial news. In December 2019, we’ll be ceasing all regular product sales indefinitely.
This means no more membership, and no regular stalls at Farmgate Market.
We may re-emerge with a workshop or ad-hoc project in the future. And FYI we are holding on to some old misos that are getting better by the day, so you never know!
The reason why we’re winding it down is, like most big decisions in life, a long story. We’ve taken the liberty to share some of the main talking points in the second half of this article, but before we commence the lengthy retrospectives we want to express our deepest gratitude to all the amazing people who’ve supported us over the last four and a half years.
A MASSIVE thanks and shout-out to to all of our awesome customers! Your support and encouragement over the years has spurred us on to make some really yummy, healthy, local grub. Your feedback along the way has been invaluable in seeding ideas for new things, and fortifying our pre-existing recipes.
Growers, suppliers et. al.
On the supply, production, and sales side, we’re grateful to the following people and businesses who have made invaluable contributions towards our ability to produce and sell:
- Farm Gate Market
- Tony & Mitch at Rocky Top Farm
- Michelle & Paul at Harvest Feast
- Stan & Briony at Fat Carrot Farm
- Alex at Golden Valley Farm
- Fin & Cara
- Jess Knight
- Sulyn & Liz
- Chris at Bio Farms
- James at Longley Organic Farm
- Maya & Isis of Sweet Sassafrass
- Jeff a.k.a Dr. Garlic
- Anna at Unpacked
- Joel & Miriam
- Rick Birch at the South East Trade Training Center
Family & Sam-ily
Extra special thanks goes out to our family for their unwavering support and willingness to work in exchange for aged smelly stuff in a jar throughout our time in operation.
Final penultimate thanks must be given to SAM: our only paid employee, who somehow managed to amalgamate the hardest damn work ethic with the chillest damn vibes during our looooong production days. We don’t know how you came to be a super-human fusion of Ram Daas and an an übermensch from an 80’s VB commercial, but we’ll never forget your unwavering contributions to workplace sanity on those mega days!
Challenges with scale
In the early stages of the business our intention was to operate a wholesale business with distribution to mainland Australia.
After a while the notion of “going large” with the business didn’t feel like a good fit for us when it came to organic Tassie produce supplies, lifestyle, financing, etc. We wrote about that here.
We didn’t see much potential to run a medium sized business in the food industry. The economics all seem geared towards large scale distributions or micro/local.
Our micro/local model had reached a capacity ceiling with the day-rate kitchen rental options we had available to us. Increasing capacity in any way would have involved renting out a separate facility on a permanent ongoing basis, which would have once again necessitated “going large” in order to legitimately offset the ongoing overhead involved with a permanent facility.
Compliance is tricky when you’re tiny
Fermented foods have been recently recategorized as “high risk” according to the TAS health department. This increased licensing fees, and adhering to compliance requirements at a micro business scale is pretty onerous when you’re dealing with domesticated molds and living foods.
The administrative cost of doing things the right way eats into one’s ability to make a sustainable living out of it. The compliance burden can be offset by bigger operations selling more stuff, but our supply side realities didn’t support that. The alternative was non-compliance which brings it’s own risks in exchange for a few more bucks.
Side project status
For a few years Michele and I managed to make Southern Wild work as a side project that we could share amongst ourselves. It actually afforded us quite a bit of flexibility to increase or decrease output depending on the seasons, etc. This was one of the great advantages of keeping it tiny.
But maintaining (and especially improving) it alongside our other jobs and our parenting obligations got harder as time went on. There were just too many plates to spin, and things became too fragmented with us attempting to drive so many agendas. It increasingly became the extra thing on the TODO list that we couldn’t get around to. And that didn’t feel right on a long term basis.
Having dwelled on our struggles to find the right fit, we’re compelled to to say that the act of providing healthy local foods to caring consumers such as yourselves has been an incredibly rewarding experience and privilege for us.
The social “capital” that we received from this venture blew us away to be honest. It has connected us to so many wonderful people. So while we’re definitely mourning this transition a little, we’re also looking back with great fondness on an experience that has educated us in so many ways, and provided many magical memories.
We had a really fun time operating the membership. In 18 months we had over 60 members partake in the program with an average membership of 25-30 at any given point in time.
It was a really nice add on to our regular market stall and gave us access to tune in to the needs of a different group of customers who were unable to make it to a Sunday market on a regular basis. It turned out to be especially handy for young mums and healthcare workers on weekend shifts.
Since 2016 we published 45 open-source fermented food recipes to this website, and are really proud of that achievement.
Most of our recipes came about as a direct byproduct of working creatively with what was available in local/organic food circles and we could not have done that without customers who understood the variability of local sourcing and were willing to go on a journey of discovery with us.
Within our recipes, we also made an honest effort to tell a true story behind where our ingredients came from in so that our customers were fully informed of our sourcing reality.
Our top 5 recipes in no particular order:
- Green Chilli & Turmeric Kimchi
- Louisiana Green Tomato Pickle
- Tokyo Turnip & Fennel Kimchi
- Roasted Onion Shio Koji
- Adzuki Bean Miso
Michele is going to undertake a Masters of Teaching in 2020 to become a high school teacher in furniture and object design. She has awesome skills in this area and is open to new commissions. You should totally check out her work.
Ronald will be focusing on his freelance digital design and development path, and is keen to make a bigger local impact with his skills. So if you know of any local NGOs or mission-driven Tassie businesses who need help with “the internetz”, keep him in mind. He also fantases about running a multi day Koji-making retreat up near Bicheno. Any takers?
Alternative local suppliers:
For all kinds of amazing Pickles, Condiments and Hot Sauces be sure to connect with Tasmania’s master fermenter Adam James (a.k.a Rough Rice) who also sells hot yummy stuff at Farm Gate Market as well.
For fresh Tempeh and other soy goodness connect with James at Soy Oy Oy. He’s also at Farm Gate Market.
For Miso find Meru’s products in stores near you.