Kendra Kerrisk single-handedly prunes all 780 trees on her olive grove – for at least five hours a day, over three to four weeks.
It’s a labour of love for this first generation farmer, who swapped life as a scientific researcher in Sydney for life on the land back in 2018. At that time, the young Kerrisk family bought a farm near Coolamon, NSW, and took on a share farmer. In 2014, they purchased another property named ‘Pleasant Valley’, which boasted a once award-winning 12-acre olive plantation.
“The grove had been severely neglected, and it wasn’t like we bought the property for the olive plantation – we farm canola, wheat, barley, oats and some sheep – but there was something about the olive trees that drew me in,” says Kendra.
The family had to decide whether to keep the olive grove, pull it out, or simply leave it as shelter for their livestock.
“I knew nothing about growing olive trees – but I did know I loved really great olive oil, so I thought, let’s give it a crack.”
Brushwoods is born
In those early days, Kendra and a friend would travel down to the Riverina from Sydney on weekends and during holidays to tend to the grove. But by the end of a three-year trial period, they made the decision for Kendra to go it alone and she moved to the country permanently with her husband Brent and their two young boys.
These days, Brushwoods is a family operation and there are times when all four members of the Kerrisk clan are out in the grove to help with the pruning, mulching, bottling and labelling.
Brushwoods usually produces 3000 bottles of the most divine, fresh, olive oil every year – liquid gold that often sells out by Christmas. That’s because Brushwoods is a seasonal product, one that’s produced at the mercy of Mother Nature.
We care, just like others, about leaving the world a better place than when we found it.Kendra Kerrisk
“That’s an important part of our story and we take our role as temporary custodians of the land very seriously, so sustainability and the impact we have on the planet underpins how we operate our business.
“We don’t irrigate, we don’t fertilise, we let Mother Nature be in control – when it rains, the grove gets watered, when it doesn’t rain, the grove goes without. That feels like the right thing for us, because this is what real food is.”
It’s an approach the Kerrisks stuck with during the recent drought, too, which saw the grove lose a dozen trees and produce just 120 bottles of olive oil. While other growers tried to water through the drought, they still produced low yields so Kendra stuck to her guns in an effort to be as efficient as possible with their property’s water usage – “if there’s nothing falling from the sky, then there’s nothing growing on our trees”.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Kendra has grown the Brushwoods product range to include body lotions and soaps and, most recently, the creamiest oats you’ll ever taste.
“The skincare range came about in 2017, when I found myself with far too much sediment from the olive oil for me to use alone,” says Kendra. “I didn’t want it going to waste and I believe that putting the right things onto our body is as important as what we put into it.
“So we met with a soapstress who transformed our produce into a range of soaps and lotions – now we can reap the benefits of pure and real ingredients both inside and out.”
In 2018, Kendra’s attention turned to oats. By this stage, she had developed a passion for real food and the joy it created for her customers – a joy she discovered at the start of the Brushwoods journey when she tasted fresh olive oil for the first time.
It was just magical, and so that became our mission – to connect our customers with pure, real, 100% Australian produce and the joy it brings to your table.Kendra Kerrisk
Kendra soon realised that no one else in Australia was making real, fresh oats – “the way our grandparents would have eaten them”. So she trialled the threshing process herself at home, with a pillowcase and a whole lot of determination to create creamy, fresh oats.
“The flavour was phenomenal, so soft and so oaty, I just knew it was the next product for the Brushwoods brand,” says Kendra.
“So we now work in partnership with another Australian farmer to produce fresh, vacuum-sealed oats for people to enjoy every day… without having to go through that pillowcase process themselves!”
While not everyone would attempt to dehull oats with a pillowcase and a strong right arm, for Kendra it’s about doing something she finds genuinely rewarding. The Kerrisk family might farm thousands of acres in the Riverina, but it was that small, neglected, 12-acre olive grove that first nurtured Kendra’s connection to the land, igniting her passion for rural life, real food, and for the people she’s met along the way.
“Because when you live in a remote area especially, those are the things that are good for my soul.”
To find out more about Brushwood’s products and a range of great recipes visit www.brushwoods.com.au and follow @brushwoodsaustralia on Instagram.
MUDJADRA RECIPE USING GROATS
Australian Farmers particularly loved this mujadara recipe using groats:
A grain and lentil side dish that is packed with fibre and a is a delicious addition to any meal!
- 1 cup Brushwoods Groats uncooked measure
- 1.5 cup cold water
- 1 can brown lentils 400g
- 1 diced onion
- 1 tbsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Brushwoods extra virgin olive oil
- Cook groats according to packet directions i.e. – in a medium pot, add groats and water, bring to a boil and simmer for around 30-40 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
- In a large fry pan, add a splash of oil and the onion and sauté until slightly golden. Add in the spices and mix for about 1 minute.
- Add in the cooked groats and lentils, stirring until well combined, add the salt and pepper and serve with a little extra olive oil and salt on top. Yum!