I must admit that I’m just a little bit envious of Kallista of Homegrown & Handmade living in the country in an olive grove, surrounded by country views and the country lifestyle. But that doesn’t mean that Kallista is idle – it’s all bustling activity, fulfilling orders of her handmade products – from making the most of locally grown seasonal produce, to fulfilling orders for bunting, gardening gloves, cookie mixes, quilts and more. But in between, there’s time to stop and take in the pleasures of sun bleached grass, olive trees and the passion of making a top quality product that fulfills a life long dream.
How did Homegrown & Handmade come to be – as a business?
Homegrown & Handmade came to be as a business when we moved to our 10 acre olive grove farm near Boddington late 2009. I was home in full mother mode with only 1 of my 3 little boys off my hands at school and work options in the country are limited. With my background in business and marketing I just couldn’t resist attempting to do something enterprising with the oil from the olive grove we now found ourselves unexpected owners of. Just what, I had no idea yet.
Was handmade creativity always a part of your life?
Yes, I learnt to sew and cook watching over my mother’s shoulder who was an expert at both, out of necessity. Making things from scratch is just a natural thing for us to do.
Chilli Infused Olive Oil
You now live on an olive farm. How has this ‘change of scenery’ inspired your creativity?
The rural setting I live in is natural, ungroomed and a little harsh in summer. It causes me to create the opposite in elegant, restrained, simple, clean styled pieces that have enough chic to counterbalance that wild messy in my orbit. I seem to imagine all my pieces will be used in the same setting as I live in – but of course this isn’t the case !
Are all your edible products created along organic and bio-dynamic principles as much as possible?
Yes, for sure. I wouldn’t regard myself as a purist but its important to me be conscious of what we ingest and the health of our natural environment. Additionally, I really value high nutrient payload in the foods I consume so of course my customers are assured the same standard in my edibles.
How do you dream up new things to make?
Each has their own inspiration story but the gold flecked olive oil was originally created as a regional produce line under my olive oil brand Squashed Olive. Boddington, (the area when our farm is) is home to what will be the largest gold mine in the southern hemisphere, so it was designed to be an edible local souvenir and is sold locally labeled “Boddington Liquid Gold”. Of course it has lots of other applications especially a petite version for the wedding market.
Where do you source the raw ingredients for your products?
Yes all the olive oil is grown by me here in our 88 tree grove, if I’m running low, I buy extra from my nearby neighbours to blend with mine. The raw honey is from a local apiarist who has hives amidst wild gum tree groves all around our district. My cookie ingredients are mostly sourced from an organic wholesaler in Perth and the fruit for jams is either local homegrown or sourced externally depending upon season.
What are some of the products you particularly love to make?
I absolutely adore making my 23 carat gold flecked olive oil bombonieres and wedding bunting. Although the gold oil is a painstaking intricate hand process, I take the quality of each bottle very seriously, as if it’s for my own wedding. Every piece (even if the order is for hundreds) is carefully hand crafted checking for beauty as I make, as if I was gifting it to my own guests.
Mint Infused Raw Honey
Are your products seasonal – e.g. your honey or olive oil, marmalade?
Only the honey is seasonal, I don’t like to supply it for winter weddings as the cold triggers it to crystallize and solidify in the jar. Everything else is all year round. All the edibles have about a 1 year + shelf life after being made. I book in orders into a production queue trying to defer production as late as possible but do like to have goods in the bride’s hand a month before wedding, just for contingency so everyone can relax.
Are you able to do special orders for bridal couples e.g. jams/marmalades with a special flavouring, herbal sprigs in honey for example?
Unfortunately not really, each product has taken a degree of mastery to perfect and reach a consistent standard. Attempting something new without a long lead time can be risky and given it’s food, it’s pretty serious business that has no room for mistakes. If I release a new product it is only after it has been trialed over a period of time and we are confident of the way it behaves. I dabble with rose petal infused honey but its often hard to ensure a consistent flavour infusion and there is water in the fresh leaves which can result in a volatile shelf life.
You also offer ‘bake at home’ cookie mixes both gluten free and non gluten free. Would you explain what your philosophy is behind these and what goes into them?
Aaaah, my cookies. These were my first real take-off product. The cookies are powerfully nutritious recipes I came up with to serve my own 3 little boys. My husband said “these are so good you could sell them”, so I did – I took them to the local community markets and they just took off. With all the other products I soon had in the pipeline I diverged into bagging up the ingredients as a “Bake at Home” cookie mix for more economical price and fresher product as once baked have a short shelf life. Every cookie has to be absolutely delicious but every ingredient is carefully thought out to provide a high nutrient offering as well as good diversification of ingredients and organic where possible. So a variety of wholefood flours, seeds, chocolates, lavender, dried berries, fresh picked fruit etc etc. The 7 original cookie mixes are still so very popular but I am so busy with other areas of my business, they have had to wait in the sidelines for expansion for a while. They are best seen in my online cookie shop www.crossmancookieco.etsy.com
What other products do you offer?
Lots. Apart from the bonbonierres, gorgeous gardening gloves and kneeling pads, baby quilts, wedding and children’s bunting, cake toppers, a big variety of gift olive oils, framed pieces, honey gifts and cookie mixes. So many plans for more if I can ever catch up with orders !
How long does it take for you to prepare and send an order?
Depends on the size and product, but the average wedding order is around 120 pieces so usually 4 – 7 days to make once all the detailed careful packing is complete. Shipping transit takes around 7 working days unless it’s Express Post, 3-4 days. Just on the making – if it’s a chilli oil, well the chilli takes 4 weeks to infuse spice into my olive oil, as does my mint herbal honey, then a week for bottling and labeling etc. The jams are made by my girlfriend who is a jam expert – but she is a midwife so we need to book that in with plenty of flexibility for an unpredictable work schedule.
What aspect of your business do you love the most?
I love the direct connection collaborating with clients. I love the feeling of progress that comes via constantly refining my products and methods for quality. I love how engaged and accountable I feel to my clients because they have chosen to spend their precious funds with me. I love the commitment and connection I make to every order and the satisfaction I feel completing, knowing I’ve done the very the best I possibly could for them, as if it was my own wedding ! I could go on….
What do you love about your country life right now?
Absolutely everything. I grew up in Sydney but have had a love of horses and riding since I was a small child. Although I enjoy aspects of city life, to me it was never spiritually sustainable. I always found deep peace and connection in the country and growing up dreamt of a life like I have now, wondering how I would ever create it. My life here is simple, humble, peaceful, connected and immensely private. My family of 3 boys and husband live in a ragged little white weatherboard cottage with no immediate neighbors and a 9km drive to town. I refer to it as my Happy Bubble.
Dark Chocolate Infused Raspberry Conserve
A weekend on the farm involves………
Depends on the temperature of the season ! But typically at the moment some grounds and tractor work, housekeeping/renovating, horse play, boys on bikes, sticks and fort building. Noise, tears, dogs and balls, movies, mooching, puzzles, kayak or swim at local river hole, dam or town pool. Often some overtime work for catchup or urgent orders, but my most favourite over summer – lining up our 5 banana beds for a calm evening dinner outside looking out at our stunning view. Happy bubble.
Thank you Kallista for sharing your story. To find out more about Homegrown & Handmade visit the website.
All images courtesy of Homegrown & Handmade.