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Field to Feast

Photo by Ted O'Donnell

Interview with – Cath Fiefia of Field to Feast

Hapi and Cath Fiefia are the proprietors of Field to Feast farm in Catherine Fields on the outskirts of Sydney. Farming sustainably on eight acres, they have built a business supplying weird and wonderful varieties of heirloom vegetables to customers searching for high quality, organic produce. They sell mainly to restaurants, organic food co-ops and the farmers markets of Sydney. On any given day you’ll find them at one of their market stalls selling vegetables and herbs that you just won’t find at most veggie shops.

“Let’s grow some veg, let’s do something different, it all started there.”

Hapi was a naturally great gardener, but we had no idea how great. We originally leased land to grow a few vegetables for the family and all of a sudden we had a bumper harvest and a viable business. It expanded organically from there! Hapi grew up farming in Tonga where he worked the land with his father, even won prizes for his crop. Having now started our own business, we grow around 150 varieties of fruit, vegetables and herbs on eight acres of ‘kitchen garden’.

“We’re beyond organic, we don’t use any chemicals at all.”

We don’t even use certified organic chemicals and successfully grow all sorts of incredible things. For example in the winter, we grow dandelion, chicory, horseradish, nettles, all peripheral greens as well as unusual herbs like chocolate mint, ginger mint and french tarragon. In summertime, we grow black tomatoes. We don’t try and compete in any way with conventional growers, we give anything out of the ordinary a go really. Beyond chemical free, we’re also dry land farmers. This means we don’t irrigate, we don’t water our crops at all. Not many farmers do this as it’s considered a big risk by some, however it is used in California for almonds and here in Australia for viticulture. We rely on what mother nature provides us with and when it rains, Hapi calls it the biggest sprinkler in the world, it makes him and the garden so happy!

“Our farm water bill is lower than the one at home.”

We pride ourselves on sustainable practises. We employ crop rotation and simply turn the offcuts and leftovers of last season through the soil to fertilise our new crops. All of our produce is hand-picked and hand weeded, with no use of fuel burning farm machinery. We are so lucky to have such incredibly hard working staff alongside us at every step of the way.

“Our crops are so abundant that our biggest challenge is selling everything each week.”

We work the weekend markets, Bondi on Saturday, Marrickville on Sunday, they are both really busy.  We do the Pyrmont organic markets once a month. Beyond sales, Pyrmont is great for marketing, it’s incredibly strict around stallholder credentials and reinforces our authenticity with the public and restaurateurs. With a background in marketing, I’m really conscious of every opportunity to build our brand. We have a great reputation for unusual produce with local chefs and supply to them through our wholesale delivery business. We supply the About Life stores as well as great local restaurants like Fratelli Paradiso and Rock Pool. We’ve also recently opened a shop in Marrickville.

“It’s so important to support local growers and seasonal produce.”

People are so much more aware of the ‘big business’ supply chain and are questioning more than they ever have in the past. It’s really important to know where your food is from, that it’s fresh and in season. I share knowledge with my customers in the shop every day. I get asked all sorts of questions like ‘Is this bunch in season?’ when pointing to fresh off the farm produce or ‘why don’t you have strawberries in winter, the supermarket does?’ It makes me realise that there is still a lot of confusion out there. However people are questioning and increasingly discerning, we’ll get there and we’re happy to help educate. You need to know your farmer, you need to be able to trust your farmer, it’s about integrity.

“Our goal is to build our retail business.”

We intend to continue growing our business, building the retail side with a future focussing on rolling out our organic stores. Hapi is set on expansion, he wants to open five shops in the next five years, it’s exciting.