Supermarket switch up - women lead the way in sustainable shopping

In our new sustainability series, we talk to Byron hinterland locals doing great things for our planet.  

Aussie households spend on average $140 per week on groceries with much of that going to the likes of Coles, Woolies and Aldi.

As Organic Gardener Magazine notes, non-organic fruit and vegetables have been sprayed with insecticides, herbicides and fungicides for the control of insects, weeds and fungi.

These chemicals have been linked to cancer, neurological conditions and a range of other health issues.

Last year when Coronavirus hit, sales of certified organic lines jumped more than 50 per cent.

Anna Sokol runs online grocery store Rider. They stock sustainable, spray-free wholefoods, organics and ethically produced household goods. Rider delivers locally across the Northern Rivers and also ship across Australia. 

“When COVID started Rider really took off,” Anna said.

The Rider website is clean, stylish and easy to navigate. And it’s no wonder, Anna spent years living in New York and working as an managing director for a not-for-profit art organisation running a huge gallery and performance space in Brooklyn in an area now known as Dumbo

“The real estate agent gave us the building and said put Dumbo on the map and you can stay here rent free for as long as you want.

The now upscale Dumbo, an acronym for “down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass”, sits between the Brooklyn Bridge, Bridge Street, York Street and the East River. Image: Melisa Figueroa

“We did some amazing stuff. I met Matt, my husband, and we eventually moved back to Australia and quickly realised how much we missed the authentic Mexican food in the States. So we opened our own, above the legendary indie rock venue Hopetoun Hotel in Sydney. It was a huge success. However, the pub shut its doors unexpectedly one day so we shifted our food business to a large loft warehouse apartment we were renting in Redfern and started hosting private functions. 

“We threw amazing events and loved the lifestyle. I was also working as event manager at the Open Air Cinema, which was intense 16-hour days for 3 months of the year. 

“When pregnant with our first child, we seriously thought about making the move to the Northern Rivers as Matt was from the area. At the time I was moving towards organic products and was horrified at the cost of them.

"Bulk food shops were buying the same products as I was, but they were marking up products by 300 per cent or more. It didn’t make sense that you could only afford spray-free food if you were well off and this is where the seeds of the Rider bulk-food business grew from.

“It started as a spreadsheet I shared with our friends outlining the products I bought in bulk. They would tick items and quantities on the spreadsheet and email it back to me. 

“When we finally made the move to Rosebank a couple of years later it instantly took off. We quickly connected with a community of like-minded people and I would coordinate with them to deliver their box in Mullum, South Golden, Brunswick, Lismore, Ballina and everywhere in between.  

“We created the website and e-store and then when COVID started orders went crazy and I formalised the delivery schedule to the homes of our customers. We now deliver twice a week, Tuesday and Friday.

The Rider website is beautiful and functional

"Most of our customers are mothers who choose to be conscious of what their family are eating. They’re awakened to the idea of organics but they’re also the ones who struggle to go into bulk health food stores because little hands will just get into everything in the shop. It’s nice to know I can help them save time, money and the hassle of going into town. Not to mention they can order when they have time, often in the evenings, and then have it delivered right to their homes.

Rider’s products are reasonably priced and they have a strong focus on making their supply chain ethical and sustainable. 

“We’re constantly swapping out products when we find local suppliers to reduce food miles. The rain-fed brown rice for example, is from Casino so I’ll drive out there to pick it up and it also gives me a chance to meet the farmers and learn about their brilliant farming practices.

"The macadamias and pecans are from local farmers as well. And it’s not just about the food miles, it’s about sustaining the economy in our local area and supporting our local producers. Buying direct from them means they get more of that money. 

“We also love supporting the small producers in the region. There are so many exciting, nutritious and ethically produced goodies being made in our region. It really is one of the reasons I love living here so much.

Some of the best selling local products are the Crack Fox Hot Sauce, the Pancakes with Purpose made with rescued green bananas the big supermarkets reject and the soap, shampoo and conditioner bars from Hemp Collective.

Some of Rider's local products 

“One of the Australian products flying off the shelves is Wakame Seaweed by Kai Ho. It’s produced from wild grown and hand harvested Undaria found in the clean waters of Tasmania’s south-east coast. Adding seaweed to our daily diet is an easy way to get all those valuable trace minerals and elements, and a natural way to get iodine into the system - essential for healthy brain and thyroid function. Steer clear of iodized table salt which is full of toxins and anti-caking agents.

“I think it’s so popular because a lot of the world’s seaweed products tend to be from Japan and after the Fukushima disaster people want to purchase their seaweed from elsewhere. We sell a lot of this, it’s delicious and flaky and goes really well in salads and soups. I ship this all over Australia, from the Northern Territory to the furthest corners of Western Australia," Anna said. 

Nightcap Ridge just added Rider’s Toasted Muesli as an optional extra for their guests along with a wide range of milks. 


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Got vegan?

Got vegan?

No longer confined to the fringes of society, veganism is set to become a more mainstream lifestyle choice in 2018.

Around the Northern Rivers region, vegans and vegan food is abundant. However there aren’t hard statistics available on the actual number of those following a vegan lifestyle in Australia.

If we follow the money, Australia is now the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world, after the United Arab Emirates and China. According to market researcher Euromonitor International, Australia's packaged vegan food market is currently worth more than $135 million and is expected to reach $215 million by 2020.

Between 2012 to 2016, according to Roy Morgan Research, the number of Australian adults whose diet was all or almost all vegetarian has risen from 1.7 million people to almost 2.1 million or 11.2 per cent of the population. 

While it’s becoming a nationwide trend, the shift towards vegetarianism has been most striking in New South Wales, where there has been a 30 per cent growth in those following a vegetarian diet.

A vegan is someone who rejects meat or animal products. However there are strict vegans who won’t touch sugar because in some cases it can be processed with bone char. Then there are vegans at the other end of the scale who might eat the odd egg from their chooks or spoonful of honey from their own bee hives.

According to the Vegan Society, modern-day veganism started in the 1940s when a guy called Donald Watson met with a group of other non-dairy vegetarians to discuss their lifestyle and what they should be labelled. After rejecting names such as ‘dairyban’ and ‘benevore’ they settled on vegan, the first three and last two letters of vegetarian.

However, rejecting animal consumption has been around for more than 2000 years. Greek philosopher and mathematician, Pythagoras promoted kindness amongst all species and followed what was essentially a vegetarian diet. Around the same time, Siddhārtha Gautama, better known as Buddha, was discussing vegetarian diets with his followers.

We hit the streets and spoke to the owners of insanely popular café, Flock in Lismore. Sarah Jones and Kim Strow started Flock in a small arcade in 2013 and when the 2017 floods hit they lost nearly everything. With some help from the community and a lot of soul searching, they took the opportunity to take over a much bigger premises on Woodlark Street and it has gone from strength to strength.

“When we opened we actually started as a vegetarian café and in the first six months, when we were testing out our menu, our customers were asking for both meat and vegan options,” Sarah said.

“Now around 40 per cent of our menu would be vegan and you can also alter many of our options to be vegan.

“I think veganism is growing in popularity but it seems to go in waves. Last year there definitely seemed to be a spike in the number of vegans,” Sarah said.

This may have had something to do with documentary, What the Health, released in 2017, which brought veganism into the mainstream media and many a dinner party conversation. The film looked at the health and environmental impacts of meat and dairy product consumption, and questioned the practices of the leading health organisations as well as major food and pharmaceutical companies.

Along with vegan food, vegan or natural wine is also gaining popularity.

Local Clunes winemaker, Jared Dixon from Jilly Wines said, “Most wines aren’t vegan because they’re made with animal products which are used to fine a wine and help in stabilisation and clarification of the wine.

“The animal products generally used for this are milk, isinglass which is fish guts, egg whites or gelatine.

“I don't use anything to clarify my wines other than natural stability from malolactic fermentation where lactic acid bacteria convert malic to lactic acid.

“In addition, the cool months in winter help to stabilise my wines naturally.

“I also only ever move my wines on the full moon because the gravitational pull at this time is at its strongest so anything suspended in solution will tend to settle better at this time.

Jilly Wines has seen the financial benefits from producing vegan-style wines with top class restaurants, Fleet in Brunswick Heads, Three Blue Ducks, Roadhouse, DUK and St Elmo in Byron, Harvest in Newrybar and Shelter at Lennox Heads, all stocking his wines.

Jilly Wines are also being sought after internationally with Japan taking quite a chuck of wine this year.

“The natural and organic wine scene is growing at a rapid rate in Japan,” Jared said.

Where to eat and drink vegan

Flock Espresso & Eats – 49 Woodlark Street, Lismore

7 days a week 6:30am – 4:30pm

As mentioned above, nearly half their menu is vegan or can be altered to be vegan. They have a good range of salads and raw vegan treats and they are really filling and yummy. 

20 000 Cows – 58 bridge Street, Lismore (Vegan restaurant)

Wednesday to Saturday 6:30pm – 9:00pm

This restaurant is a Lismore institution offering vegan fare and there’s suggested prices for the food items. It has a great philosophy and vibe. You feel as though you’re sitting in someone’s lounge room.

Clunes Store, Café & Cellars - 33 Main Street Clunes

Café open 7 days 7:00am – 2:00pm

The Clunes Store, Café and Bottleshop definitely punch above their weight in terms of their range of vegan food and wine options.

No Bones - 11 fletcher Street, Byron Bay (Vegan restaurant)

Open 7 days 5 - 9pm 

This new plant-powered gem sources their ingredients locally, focussing on seasonal and organic produce with no compromise on flavour.

Manna Haven - 97 Jonson Street, Byron Bay (Vegetarian restaurant)

Sunday – Friday 11:00am – 3:00pm

Manna Haven focus on whole-food plant based meals made from fresh, wholesome and natural ingredients. They serve a range of vegan and vegetarian meals, desserts and smoothies.

Three Blue Ducks at The Farm - 11 Ewingsdale Rd, Ewingsdale

Restaurant opening times

No visit to Byron is complete, especially with kids, without a visit to The Farm. You can wander through the farm and check out where your food comes from or sit back and relax in the industrial-sheike restaurant. While there is quite a focus on meat, there are vegan and gluten free options for breakfast lunch and dinner.

Shelter Café and Restaurant - 41 Pacific Parade, Lennox Head

Sunday – Wednesday 6:30am – 3:00pm

Thursday – Saturday 6:30am – 10:30pm

Shelter is a beachside café and restaurant with great coffee and a relaxed feel. They have a couple of vegan options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Got a story tip for the Hinterland Post? Email the team. 


The buzz on bees - five benefits of home beekeeping

Our ecosystems can’t exist without them and more than 80 per cent of all crops grown for human consumption rely on them.

The humble honeybee may be small in stature but the weight of the world is carried on their little wings.

Here’s top five reasons to start beekeeping in your backyard.

1. Bee numbers are in decline

Largely due to pesticides and habitat loss, bee numbers are declining at a rapid rate across the globe. While Australia is yet to be affected by Colony Collapse Disorder, which leaves bees abandoning their hives to die, the US has seen a 60 per cent reduction in honeybees. If we don’t do something, Australian bees will face a similar fate and if we succeed in wiping out the bees, we won’t be far behind.  Help a bee out, start keeping bees.

You can read more about the sad decline in bee colonies here: ABC Gardening - Bees

2. Bees make honey, honey is good for you

Nature’s natural sweetener, honey is a healthier alternative to sugar.

Homegrown honey is about as pure as it gets and unlike some commercial products, it isn’t heat treated, meaning its nutritional profile isn’t compromised.

Need another excuse to sip on Mother Nature’s liquid gold, check this out: Health Benefits of Honey

3. We love flowers, flowers love bees

Want a garden full of blooms this spring? It’s not going to happen without a healthy colony of bees. Bees are good for flowering plants and fruit trees. Position a hive in your backyard and reap the rewards.

Explore more on the ins and outs of pollination here: Bee pollination 

4. Purify the air with beeswax candles

Beeswax candles emit negative ions into the atmosphere that bind with toxins and help remove them from the air. Making beeswax to make candles is a lovely way to pass the time and you know exactly what you are putting into the air you breathe.  

5. It’s a rewarding hobby

The initial set up cost will set you back a few hundred dollars, but once you get started there are very little additional costs involved.  Unlike other hobbies, beekeeping doesn’t take much time yet you’re benefiting the environment and reaping delicious rewards.

For more information on backyard beekeeping check out the Department of Primary Industries’ Prime Facts