Close Family + Good Food = Great Times
With the number of fresh produce and organic shops flourishing in Townsville, it seems that there is a real awakening in regards to what people are choosing to put into their mouths. Opening their doors in October last year, mother and daughter team Kellie Herring and Tracey Bakon – aided by the super cute 11-month-old Charlotte – are building the Organic Pantry on family values. They are not only striving to make organic affordable, but also return good quality food to its rightful role as ‘uniter of families’.
“I think families need to have this time together over a meal; even if it’s just once a day – everyone’s busy. There’s nothing better than someone asking, ‘How was your day?’”
Based in Aitkenvale – on Ross River Road – it doesn’t take long to work out that family takes centre stage in this organic deli and café. Kellie, Kellie’s husband Luke and Tracey are all working when we visit for a coffee (that has oat milk, almond milk, rice milk and soy milk as options, may we add). But no one is too busy to make a fuss of young Charlotte who benefits from the delicious snacks, on-site playpen and often the company of Chef Ash Ede’s nine-month-old son. Every customer who walks through the door is addressed by their first name; always with a loving “honey” thrown in for good measure.
To Kellie and Tracey food is – and always has been – about family.
“Food brings families together – the fondest memories for me are sitting down with my family and having a meal and talking,” tells Tracey who has spent 45 of her 50 years in Cardwell with most of her immediate family still there, but had to relocate after Cyclone Yasi. “But a lot of people have sadly lost that now – they’re not having a night-time meal together, and if they do, they don’t communicate. I think families need to have this time together over a meal; even if it’s just once a day – everyone’s busy. There’s nothing better than someone asking, ‘How was your day?’”
Tracey and Kellie have been running the business in a mobile capacity for three years, sourcing organic produce and home delivering it all over Townsville. At the limit of their growth, they decided to move into the new shop, which recently welcomed the Little Pear Café.
“The food that we sell in the café is really a showcase of what we sell in the store,” tells Kellie. “It’s filled with dishes that are made from scratch using seasonal, ethical, low food-mile produce. At any given time this means that approximately 80% of what is on offer is certified organic and local spray-free. The chicken we use in our salads is organic Bendele Farms chicken, the beef is 100% grass fed from Jervoise Organic Meats, and we use biodynamic Mungalli Creek milk and egg products in our cooking.
“We try to provide a range of food for all tastes – gluten free, refined sugar free, vegetarian, vegan… plus a few options that are none of these things, just delicious.”
Both grounded by the philosophy that everyone should enjoy food and try new things; the girls love it when the new products they have sourced arrive.
“We like to find small cottage industries that other people don’t stock,” says Kellie. “Like the pasta we have is made by a lady who does it all by herself. She makes these amazing pastas partially out of gluten-free flours and partially out of vegetables; so the beetroot one is 37% beetroot… what an awesome way to get vegetables into your kids without them realising!”
But they are also all-too aware about the trade-off that sometimes occurs with the quality of the product and price, because – at the end of the day – if people can’t afford it, they simply won’t buy it.
“For us, being very family-orientated and family-driven is not just about having a play area – it’s about trying to keep our prices as competitive as we can while trying to keep our doors open,” tells Tracey. “To me, getting the message out there about healthy food and local food is what it’s about. And if more-and-more people are getting the message out there, then it becomes more affordable for people.”
They both agree that the tide has certainly started to turn for consumers who are starting to understand the cost of producing real and healthy food and the importance of supporting local farmers.
“People don’t realise how much power they have as a consumer because if you said, ‘I’m going to switch and spend that extra 50c on that carton of free range eggs’ imagine the difference it would make over your life.”
“I’m not a vegetarian and will probably never be one, but I believe everything we put in our mouths should have a healthy and a happy life while it’s on the Earth,” Tracey says. “So we really made sure of this with our product selection. I’ve been to Mungalli and seen how happy those chickens are in those paddocks. I know Kerry and Kristine Johnston from Jervoise Organic Meats and they are very respectful of their animals and, while that won’t help the vegetarians, it’s still wonderful to know that everything’s had a really good life.
“People don’t realise how much power they have as a consumer because if you said, ‘I’m going to switch and spend that extra 50c on that carton of free range eggs’ imagine the difference it would make over your life. Then if you got an extra 50 people to do that imagine the difference that would make. Straight away it’s 50 less cartons of cage eggs that are going to sell and 50 less they’ll order each and every time.”
Another passion at the Organic Pantry is ensuring farmers get a good deal.
“People need to start putting a face to where their food comes from,” Tracey tells. “The supermarkets sell broccoli for a dollar and shoppers say, ‘what a bargain!’. All I can think is, ‘Oh my god, the farmer got – what – 20c’? Maybe I have tunnel vision in one way, but I work with and deal with these people every single day. Everybody just needs to start being a little bit more in-touch about where their food has come from.”
So what are the plans for the Organic Pantry family moving forward? After having a little bit of a break over Christmas with plenty of family feasting, it’s now about getting cracking on the next phases, which include expanding the offering of the café, running cooking classes and offering healthy takeaway options.
“Our food journey is taking us in new directions, but good ones, because you should always want to learn a lot of new things every day,” says Tracey.
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