Interview * Sharon & Ken * Luckwood Organics
Posted on October 18, 2013
As luck would have it … some time ago I stumbled upon a GORGEOUS little A-frame sign sitting prettily on Piper Street in Kyneton. Several months later, as even greater luck would have it, the wonderful Luckwood Organics opened its doors to the community like blossom bursting into blooms in spring – bringing local, seasonal, organic fruit & veg & good food ETHICS to town! Hooray!
Nestled in yesteryear’s grand bluestone flour mill, Luckwood Organics feels welcoming and warmly familiar – perhaps because its continuing the mill’s time-honoured tradition of bringing food from surrounding farms to the townsfolk. The store’s produce radiates brilliant pops of colour that make you want to sample one of everything! In fact, Luckwood Organics reminds me a little of Aladdin’s cave only this time it’s filled with a treasure trove of antioxidants, vitamins & nourishment. But more than being a delightful organic fruit & veg store, Luckwood Organics is very much about food ethics & community spirit, which is perhaps what gives it its relaxed, nurturing vibe.
AND, it’s no surprise to discover the store’s LOVELY owners, Sharon Kittson & Ken Shimizu, have smiling faces, sparkling eyes & radiant healthy glows. Sharon & Ken moved to the Macedon Ranges three years ago (a journey that began organically when they discovered they had a surprise bub-on-the-way) & knew they wanted to give their children a healthy upbringing.
As well as stocking a wide selection of seasonal organic fruit & veg & specialising in farmer-direct produce, Sharon & Ken run their popular organic food box scheme, which has pick up points around the Macedon Ranges including another health-filled community-minded favourite of The Countryphiles Ethic in Woodend. We really are just so ‘lucky’ to have Sharon & Ken land on our doorstep! Enjoy! x
Tell us a little bit about your background/s – what path led you to where you are now?
My partner Ken and I moved from the city to the Macedon Ranges just over three years ago. Ken was working as a lecturer at RMIT University in the translating and interpreting department, while I had been studying architecture before the surprise of finding myself pregnant with our first daughter. We moved out of the city for a better lifestyle for our young family. After our first year, the commute became an unwanted barrier to more time at home. Ken set out to create a freelance career to free-up his work schedule and I started dreaming up ideas for new projects. I wanted to be able to spend time with our daughters, Renna and Sachi, while doing something interesting and worthwhile within the local community.
Tell us about ‘Luckwood Organics’? Where does the name come from and how did you get into selling organic fruit & veg?
I used to work part-time for an organic market in the city and loved the access to fresh organic food; much of it grown on site. My love for the localised food movement grew from this time and I was excited about the prospect of moving to the country where I envisioned mountains of fresh organic produce on my doorstep! We spent our first year traipsing merrily around the countryside following the weekend farmers markets. I was inspired by the produce and environment and envisioned providing a service for the local area to give more people access to beautiful organically-grown food. The idea of a co-op sprung up, but it quickly became apparent that more people were interested outside my immediate friendship circle. To date, Luckwood Organics has been running a food box scheme for close to two years. We have over 300 people on our member lists, and I have just opened a new retail store at 18 Piper St. in Kyneton. The name doesn’t have a particularly romantic origin, we had been brainstorming names, when I misread a local letterbox, which said Lockwood … not Luckwood! It stuck, and grew from there.
We all enjoy beautiful food! But what is it like to own an organic food box business in a small country town?
The produce is very inspiring. I love the thought of so much great food making it to the tables of families around the area. The food box scheme has created this wonderful sense of community for me. I feel like I created a little niche for myself and have been able to meet so many other fantastic like-minded people as a result. There are so many great projects, community groups and other businesses in this area. I’ve been fortunate to be able to learn more and get involved through what I do.
I really think the heart of the home and the community might be the kitchen!
You source local & seasonal produce wherever possible. Tell us about this philosophy?
It just seems illogical to source something to eat from a long way away, especially if it’s available locally at better quality and freshness. Eating locally supports local farming, the local economy, helps the environment, builds more resilient communities – and tastes better!
We are very fortunate to live in an area where it is possible to eat both locally and organically. While we do source some produce from further afield, we can get nearly everything from within Victoria. In general, we aim for about 70-80% of the produce we source to be from within our local area. Eating locally means eating seasonally. This is an immensely satisfying way to eat that puts you in sync with the seasons and lifecycles of the year. Instead of eating bland tomatoes in winter, you can exult in the first mouthful of juicy, sun-ripened perfection in summer. Eating food in its peak season means delighting in it at its best. There is also a lot of enjoyment in the anticipation of the different flavours of the seasons.
What have you learnt along the way? What are the challenges & the rewards of Luckwood Organics?
It’s been a steep learning curve, it’s a new business in a new area of interest. It’s been great to deepen my knowledge on the lifecycles, seasons and supply chains of produce. Starting a local food box scheme put me at the edge of a big network of ideas and existing systems. There are many social, political, environmental and economic ramifications of the choices we make with the food we eat. It can be a challenge to consider them all.
For me, the main reward has been community. I love the farms, the families and the food.
Do you consider yourself to be a ‘Countryphile’? Do you love country life? Why?
Yes, although it never occurred to me before. I grew up a small-town girl, and life in the country feels surprisingly normal.
But yes, I am in love!
Have you always lived a country life?
Most of my extended family were originally farmers and some still are. I loved growing up on our little farm, yet I got out of my small town as soon as I could and spent a lot of time travelling around. I always thought that once I had kids I would go back to my roots, so to speak.
What does a typical day in the life of ‘Sharon of Luckwood Organics’ look like; from when you wake to when you go to sleep?
We have two small children aged 2 and 4, they remain a big part of our day. We try to gear our working schedules around spending time with them. They come with me on farm runs, or come down to play at the pick-up points. Some days are really long, twice a week I’m awake at 3am driving to the wholesale markets in the city, before going to set up a market stall, pack box orders or opening the shop. There is always a flurry of social activity at box pick-ups, which is lots of fun. There’s also lots of lugging crates of produce in and out of the ute. I joke that this is what I do mostly.
Ken is incredibly supportive, and we swap roles between our different work schedules and family time. The end of the day is in the kitchen cooking dinner. This is my favourite time, a moment to catch up at the dinner table and enjoy the fruits of our labour! An early bedtime, I’m often asleep with the kids.
What aspect of country life are you loving MOST at the moment?
I love watching our kids playing outside in the yard, chasing the chooks, climbing trees, collecting flowers. Winter in the Macedon Ranges is pretty icy. I think we all appreciate a little bit of sunshine!
What do you consider the most CHALLENGING aspects of country life?
Mowing the lawn?
I can’t really think of anything!
Do you prefer Coffee or Tea? Do you have a favourite country café and why?
I love a cuppa with friends. Tea or coffee as long as it’s hot! We are lucky to have a great choice of cafes around the area. Spoilt for choice, I don’t think there’s a favourite.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
I wish I could say bed.
YOUR country town’s best kept secret?
I think that from the outside you don’t immediately get the wonderful sense of community within our town. I appreciate that we haven’t been in the area all that long, but are lucky enough to feel right at home. All the great people here are no secret, but we would never have dreamed this deep sense of community before we arrived.
What can we expect NEXT from you/Luckwood in the future?
We are working towards a community kitchen space in the new shop. It’s at the heart of many new food adventures.
What are you looking FORWARD to and why?
I’m looking forward to biting into that first summer tomato.
What would be your dream project?
Far away in the future I would like to integrate food systems into my architecture studies. I’m not sure what this looks like now, but we’ll see. As for now, I think I’m working on my dream project. I love my work, it’s continually evolving, it’s earthy, and I meet great people. It was just a simple idea to run a box scheme, but it has opened the door to many other possibilities and avenues for new projects.
The new store is very exciting, and I’m very happy to see it open. Just the other day a mother of four said to me, “You know, our kids haven’t been sick at all this year, and the only thing I can put it down to is our change to eating your organic produce, thank you!” It was just great, and it’s these kinds of things that make this project really worthwhile.
Can you list for us 5 specific things you turn to/do when you need of a ‘dose’ of city life?
1. Stay with friends in the city for dinner.
2. See a movie at cinema Nova.
3. Visit the NGV and go for a walk in the botanic gardens.
4. Go to an art opening.
5. Go dancing!
Sharon Kittson & Ken Shimizu
18 Piper Street KYNETON