Interview with Emma Lane, The Farm

Emma Lane Co-Creator of The Farm

Can you tell us a little about your background and what drew you and Tom to choose a life based in Byron Bay?

Byron Bay had always been a place Tom and I returned to for time out from the busy city life and for a hit of nature. Tom had spent time in Byron during his university years in Lismore and had history in the area. I had an affinity for the green rolling hills that reminded me of my time growing up England. Every time we visited this region together, we were always blown away by the natural beauty in the beaches, throughout the hills and of course, the wonderful lack of high-rise buildings. After having Lulu, our youngest child, we decided to buy a holiday house in the Byron hinterland since travel overseas with four little children seemed unrealistic for a while and we wanted to create memories in one place until the children were old enough to appreciate travel.

How did the idea for starting “The Farm” come about?

We had 30 acres to play with on our property in Federal and since Tom grew up on his parent’s farm in Braidwood during his school holidays, he had all of these ideas of what to do on the land. And I have always been interested in nutrition, so between us, we came up with the idea of growing our own food. It was interesting to see how the kids' love of vegetables dramatically increased when they planted and helped grow a variety of different kinds themselves. We had a thought that if we could do this so simply for our kids and make a difference what about doing it for a community of children who may never get to experience a working farm. The Farm was born from this idea as well as from the desire to show people where real food comes from. At The Farm, we provide workshops around simple farming concepts and suggest enquiry around areas of sustainability that can be adopted by anyone who has access to a small plot of Earth. We also educate school groups and provide a school holiday program. Our ethos is "Grow, Feed, Educate and Give Back."

Multiple images of Emma Lane and her family enjoying the outdoors and spending time on their farm

What do you think it says about a community's needs, given The Farm's huge popularity, and what are your thoughts on the importance of community?

I think we are realizing that community has many benefits. It was how our grandparents were raised with the concept of "it takes a village" to do many things, including raising our children, growing food and quite simply feeding ourselves- one of our basic human needs. The Farm is modeled on that old-fashioned village concept whereby everyone helps by contributing with their area of expertise. I think its popularity is reflective of how ready people were for such a concept. Here’s a quote that was recently in our Give Back Newsletter and further explains my thoughts on community:

“When we started The Farm four years ago, we had a strong vision to create a community space involving input from a wide range of people with different skills. Our hope was to create a strong sense of community and the benefits that a vibe of people working together to achieve a common goal brings. These people are restauranteurs, chefs, bakers, farmers, growers, entrepreneurs, planet custodians and teachers, and together we hope to encourage people to question where their food comes from, to think actively about sustainability- in particular, the importance of the future of farming. Additionally, it was our wish to nurture a strong sense of giving back at The Farm for the benefit of the greater good. This is important in a world that has become a little individualist and disposable. We believe that by working with and encouraging community and helping others, this will in turn assist us to reveal our own humanity and humility, which can only be a good habit to embody.”

What does sustainability mean to you personally and professionally? How has it played a role in the projects you and Tom have undertaken?

Sustainability is about having a consciousness about the future of the planet for future generations. We are only custodians of the land while we are here and we need to personally take responsibility to try and leave it in as good of a condition as when we arrived. And, if possible, even better after our time here.

Various outdoor scenes of the beach and lush, green hills

You have a new exciting project at Ballina called “The Beach House.” Can you tell us about it and its alignment with conservation?

The Farm as a project focuses on land sustainability. With The Beach House, we are extending this focus to local ocean and coastline sustainability. Just as The Farm has provided a green space for the community to gather, we are introducing The Beach House, a space where people can connect to nature, create community and collectively give back. When groups hire The Beach House for an event, this creates an opportunity for guests to give back and contribute positively towards local coastal sustainability, with part of the hire cost for every event donated to our environmental trust. At the end of the year, this trust along with the help of our coastal ambassadors will be awarded to a local coastal sustainable need or organization.

We figure that in this way everyone can celebrate their unique event with the beauty of the planet in mind and with the element of a social conscience.

So, it’s from this standpoint that we have created The Beach House East Coast- a place that connects celebration and conservation through the healing aspects of looking out across the ocean and the coming together of friends, family and like-minded people to create community.

It’s a memorable location with the ethos of "where celebration meets conservation."

Collage of images of The Beach House East Coast, as well as a photo of the Lane family on the farm

As a Mum of four, what are your thoughts on the future of sustainability and how it plays a role in the future of the world's wild places?

I think of it from the angle of every mum out there – what do we want the world to look like for our kids and grandchildren and how would we feel if we were the Lioness mumma or the Rhino mumma? Their future is equally as important to them as our human one is to us. Nature has provided everything in balance and if we as humans upset this balance, which unfortunately we have done in many areas, then there will not be an abundant future for any life on this planet. As natural as it is to have offspring, it is just as natural of a cycle for the sustainment of the future of our world. For sake of the future of the world's wild places, we need to actively do what we can to help biodiversity to return so that nature can do what its knows best. We can then try to undo the damage, protect for the future and ultimately avoid the extinction of species.

What does wilderness mean to you and your family?

When you stumble across undisturbed ecosystems in nature, it has that wilderness feel. There is a strong presence of no human contact, like it hasn’t been meddled with and as a human, you are just a visitor that doesn’t remain; it’s just a visit. We are fortunate to feel this in certain areas of our property. It’s quite a primitive feeling. To find this feeling, we run free in the paddocks, go on bush walks, cook over an open fire, eat from the land, grow some of our own food and often sit and gaze under the stars together. Wilderness is really just letting nature do its thing in its own time frame. For a moment, when you are just watching rather than interfering, there is harmony between man and nature.

What do you think are the most important messages we need to be communicating with each other in regards to the future of the world's wild places?

We have forgotten how to be good guests on this planet and how to treat it with respect. We can change our ways and lead by example. Remember “Each one of us can make a difference, together we can make a change.”

What do you think young people will expect from brands in terms of authenticity and transparency around sustainability and planet over profit?

I think an increasing number of our young people are starting to realize that the future is in our hands and if we start to buy only from those that have a real commitment to sustainability over profit, then we can make change. Conservation must be more than a convenient slogan. I think that our young are beginning to realize that together we can make a difference, especially since we are seeing brands starting to invest more in conservation and sustainability because the consumer is beginning to demand it. Take for example GenZers. They were born between 1995 and 2012 and are now aged between 7 and 25. They are a generation with a strong desire to make a positive impact on the world and are passionate about environmental causes. We will look to this generation to be environmental activists. I have great hope in our young to continue the work that we have started. They are a generation of doers who are not afraid to boycott a company that supports issues contrary to their own. Bring it on, I say.

Emma and her family taking stock of the land surrounding their property on The Farm

You take beautiful photos and are a talented poet. How has creativity played a role in your life? What inspires you?

Thank you! Creativity has been woven through my life from an early age. My mother was an artist and window dresser in the 70’s, so I learned a lot from just watching her. As a young child, I would be found bringing old bits of furniture back to life. So I have had this idea about up-cycling and recycling for a long time. I always found the old items to have more stories and character. My biggest inspiration is definitely nature – the colors and tones that work so harmoniously together- and using items that are found in nature like timber, wicker, stone. For instance, the colors in our stone fireplace, made from rocks foraged only from our property, dictated the color and tone choices of the linen fabric used in our sunken lounge. You don’t have to look far in nature for inspiration – just think about the tones of autumn in the trees?

Do you have a favorite quote or poem that you would like to share that resonates with you? Do you have a thought or philosophy that you would like to share based on your life experience so far?

A thought or philosophy would be to trust your instincts. We were given this gift, but I think that many have forgotten how to use it or even trust it. It is one thing our animal friends do very well.

My favorite poem is by Robert Frost and is really an extension of trusting your instincts.

The Road Not Taken 

What advice would you give to anyone who has a dream of starting a project like you and Tom have, but who may feel daunted at the outset? How have you dealt with the challenges along the way?

Write a mission statement for your idea- what you hope to achieve by embarking on the project- and then refer to this along the way to make sure that your choices and the people you choose to work with are in line with your philosophy. Have a master plan, but tackle it with bite size pieces that are mini projects in themselves, so that along the way you achieve small wins that propel you forward to the bigger project. Have faith and belief in yourself and have the courage to take the first step even though you cannot see the whole staircase.

Looking forward 25 years, what legacy do you and Tom hope to leave behind with projects like The Farm, The Range and The Beach House?

A collection of properties that have a social conscience in that there is a consideration of sustainability and conservation. We hope projects like The Farm lead to a society that has a closer connection with food, the environment, the planet and importantly, the community we are all part of.

Photos of Emma and her family followed by a quote that says, "There is no power for change than a community discovering what it cares about"

If you had to choose one place to be with just your family and the basics, where would it be? Why? What would you take?

The daydreamer in me would say a small deserted island, as I was a big fan of the book Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe when I was young. I like the idea of living under a grass hut, hunting for fish and cooking over an open fire. Crusoe, however, was all by himself and that would be no fun, so to have my family with me would be fantastic! I would take: seeds to plant for food, spears for fishing, some great books, plenty of paper and watercolor paints, a journal and pen, my camera, my favourite sun hat, a face mask for looking at fish, a small sailing boat for fun, my collectors string bag for beach finds and some extra string for making driftwood and shell mobiles to decorate the grass hut! 

What is your favorite animal and why?

My favorite wild animal is a meerkat – it always has been. I love their little mannerisms, and how they work together in a community to gather food, look out for predators and take care of their babies. They are very social animals living together in burrows. I just love their funny little ways.

 The Farm property and the The Farm Community lifestyle and food book

The Farm Community (pictured above), a food and lifestyle book by Emma and Tom Lane released last year and can be purchased here.

To learn more about The Farm visit www.thefarm.com.au. More information on The Beach House can be found at www.thebeachhouseeastcoast.com.