What began as a project to sell excess produce to their local community in northern NSW has turned into a thriving, all-natural business.
Amanda Callan and Andrew Morris of Church Farm General Store.
What they do
Create soaps and sauces using natural ingredients from a parcel of land in northern NSW.
Why they do it
“I love working with all of the materials – the herbs, flowers, essential oils, clays,” says Amanda. “They are all such beautiful raw ingredients and being able to transform them into such a useable product is awesome.”
Just like the ingredients that make up their products – from soaps to sauces and curry pastes – the evolution of the Church Farm General Store has been truly organic. When Amanda and her musician partner, Andrew, started growing extra produce in their front yard, they created a roadside stall that comprised a chair on a box with a sign, “cucumbers for sale”.
Over time, it evolved into a timber hut, which Andrew built, and is now a thriving business. “We liked the idea of sharing our produce with the neighbours or people driving by,” says Amanda.
Their home certainly makes visitors to Billinudgel, in northern NSW, stop and look. A former church opposite the town’s main junction, it was first spotted in 2012 when the pair were on a country drive with Amanda’s parents.
“I said, ‘Imagine if that church was for sale’ – and it was,” Amanda
Up until then, Amanda and Andrew had been living in a nearby coastal town after moving north from Sydney. At the time, Amanda was pregnant with the couple’s first child, Banjo, who is now four.
Today, their little family includes Percy, two, rescue dog Maggie, and a menagerie of chickens.
One summer after a bumper crop of tomatoes and chillies, Andrew roasted them over coals and made a hot sauce, which became popular among friends. This was added to their little market hut, as was a range of soaps – which the duo had been making for themselves – free from palm oil, synthetic fragrances and preservatives. Soon, shops were contacting them to stock their wares.
“I stayed up one night making a website, as we thought it would be cool to send soaps by mail,” explains Amanda. “It sort of just grew from there.”
As the business began to expand, the couple hoped to convert an old butcher’s shop into their own store, but instead decided to farm a nearby acre of land and focus on selling their produce at the local farmers’ markets. However, interest from nearby stores and brands who wanted custom soaps continued to grow. “We’ve been really fortunate as most of our stockists have heard or seen our soaps somewhere and contacted us, so it has just had a really nice flow to it,” says Amanda.
The duo live and breathe the ethos of the brand. “I remember when I first met Andrew, I thought he was a total dreamboat, because he used a natural aluminium-free roll-on deodorant, and a natural fragrance-free hemp moisturiser,” says Amanda. At the time she was working and studying to be a naturopath, and has recently resumed her studies in health science, while Andrew continues to play in his band The Wilson Pickers, between making batches of sauce. Today, the pair have a dedicated space – in nearby Mullumbimby – to make their soaps, rather than in their kitchen.
Amanda attributes the success of Church Farm General Store to the increasing appeal of natural products. “People are understanding the importance of what you put on your skin,” she explains. “You can feel the difference when using a handmade soap versus commercial soap. Things that take a little bit more effort are totally worth it.”
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