The Riverina’s farming heart
Imagine combining your professional training and heartfelt passion with a sustainable business? But having the chance to ‘dip your toes in’ first? Well for the Kerrisk family, this was their exact Country Change story…
Brushwoods is a quintessentially beautiful, thriving farm in the heart of the Riverina. In addition to producing its two primary crops: olive oil and oats; there is a third: natural skin care products.
Born of a desire to use everything they grow and minimise waste, Kendra Kerrisk (Brushwoods’ driving force) aims to make use of the by-products from pressing their award-winning oil. As a result, she branched out into skincare. In combination with the soothing properties of their oats, the olives add extra richness to the soaps and lotions they have added to their inventory.
The Kerrisk’s have always had strong connections with the land. Both Kendra and her husband, Brent, grew up in rural New Zealand. “I loved farming and rural life,” said Kendra. “If you weren’t a farmer, you knew one,” she added. Brent, raised on a dairy farm, later expanded into beef cattle, while Kendra pursued a career as an agricultural scientist.
Country Changers revel in rural lifestyles
An opportunity to take up a position in ‘Dairy and Farming Systems’ at the University of Sydney 14 years ago provided the family with the perfect opportunity to settle in Australia. Working from the university’s Camden campus in Sydney’s western suburbs allowed Kendra, Brent and their children (Jacob and Thomas) to rent a farm cottage away from the city centre. At the time, buying a house with a couple of acres of land near Camden would have suited them well. “When we realised that everything around there was out of our price range, we began to look a little farther out,” Kendra explained.
Capacity for cultivation
Discovering the potential available in the Riverina, the Kerrisk’s ended up leasing land and began share-farming it. “This was a good steppingstone, as we couldn’t move out there and begin farming it all ourselves straight away,” Kendra explained. “It’s a great alternative to buying your own property in a new area,” she advised, “and it takes some of the risks out while still allowing you to be involved.” Kendra is passionate about the many benefits of share-farming, further suggesting that “it allows you to observe the farming in that region before you jump in boots and all.”
In 2014, the purchase of Brushwoods, located halfway between Coolamon and Ganmain, provided the family with everything they had been seeking. When Brent was offered a position in Wagga Wagga, moving to the Riverina became an obvious thing to do and in 2018, the Kerrisk’s moved there permanently.
Coolamon – a village lifestyle with a welcoming community
With a population of over 4300, Coolamon offers a village lifestyle and friendly, welcoming community. The town is perfect for those looking to put down roots in a small, but growing community. With the slightly larger township of Temora roughly 60km away and just 40km to Wagga Wagga, access to everything you could need is in easy reach.
Tending the heart of the Riverina
Often described as the heart of the Riverina, Coolamon’s agriculture is of prime importance to its consistent beat.[LG1] [CC2]
Kendra desires to reconnect Australians with the land upon which their food is grown and the farmers that produce it, “so we can make the right choices for our health and our planet,” she said.
And it seems she has found the perfect place in the Riverina to live and share her message. “We feel really embedded in the community, much more so than in other, bigger places we’ve lived,” Kendra recounted. “We’ve been very well embraced, and we all feel like valued members of the community. I don’t think people realise how good that is for your soul,” she confessed.
“We all seemed to fit in right away. People invited us to be a part of every aspect of the community. From sport and school to business and social events, we felt we were needed. There was no option to be lonely,” she said.
Of the community, Kendra couldn’t speak highly enough, “Although we also sell online, our biggest supporters are on our back doorstep. The locals feel connected to the product and what we are doing.”
She acknowledged that compared to living in the city, “It really feels like we can make a big contribution to the destiny of the community here.” Something the Kerrisk family and Brushwoods farm are delighted to be a part of.
You can find more about the Brushwoods story here: