EXCLUSIVE: Tom and Emma Lane from Byron Bay’s The Farm have sold up after five years, but the community-led business is here to stay.
Just outside of Byron Bay, the foodie haven has been a thriving hotspot for locals, visitors and celebrities alike (the Hemsworths live just up the road) – full of wholesome treats from its garden, bakery and cafe, it also allows visitors to learn about food with their nursery education programmes, and tour the property on horseback.
Famous for its Grow, Feed, Educate and Give Back philosophy, the business was listed for sale earlier this year with the aim to keep it running and growing with the help of its new owners and 120 staff.
Tom Lane described the sale as “an interesting one to digest” but said he and his family are excited about their next chapter.
“It’s really all about a full circle. We originally came up here with our four kids to have a slower pace of life and spend more time with our kids and grow our own food, which really led us into the whole idea of creating a farm, so we did it for ourselves now we’re doing for everyone else. And we feel like we’ve done a pretty nice job.
“We’ve built a community, generated over 120 jobs, given back in so many ways… so we feel very proud actually, I think that would be the best way to sum it up.”
Fans of The Farm (and there are about 165k of them on Instagram) will be pleased to hear the project’s legacy will be continued with the new owners – local business and property owners Fraser and Allyson Short – taking the helm when the purchase settles later this year.
Mr Lane said the legacy was a crucial part of the deal when selling The Farm to the Shorts, who also have four children, who he has known for about 10 years.
“We bumped into [the Shorts] on a holiday recently and that really just started the discussion, around our family values and what we’re trying to do. Fraser’s got a house up in Byron, he’s obviously got another business up here and we’ve got a lot in common, and that’s sort of how the whole deal came together in the end.
“It’s like handing the baton over in a relay race. Continuing the legacy.
“We had many people circling, and we’ve had many people circling since we opened it, to be honest. We’re had plenty of taps on the shoulders and I gotta tell you, most of them were inappropriate in terms of the fit for the long term.”
Just a 10-minute drive from the centre of town, The Farm is a paradise of rolling green hills, historic farm sheds surrounded by ancient trees, as well as all the wholesome, sustainable produce you can poke a carrot at.
Fraser Short said he is really excited about taking over the reins, and he’s not planning on changing much.
“We just love it as it is, everything’s working so well. My dad used to always say, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
“What we would love to do is lean into some of those principles [of The Farm] and see if we can develop them further. There has to be opportunities around farming and agri-business, we’ve got 80 acres so there’s a lot of opportunity that comes for everyone when you’re well funded and you can continue to invest in small agri-tech and agri-business.”
It’s going to take some time to get their heads around the program and ethos at The Farm, but the Shorts won’t be alone – Mr Lane will be there to give hands on help.
“That’s a big part of the transaction, Tom is part of the community,” Mr Short said. “The thing that we feel really good about is the fact that [Tom and Emma] are going to be there for advice and also just for a bit more education for us as to what their midset is.”
The unique property was originally listed for $20m+, and while both parties are remaining tight-lipped on the final price, Mr Short said everyone is “very happy”.
“I mean, Tom won’t have to work too hard and hopefully he can buy himself a lot more cattle,” he said.
“He deserves it, Tom and Emma deserve it for what they’ve done for the community… here’s a business that has not only fed the community but employed the community, encouraged small business and encouraged small business to employ each other, it’s an amazing outcome and I think they deserve to be paid for it.”
For Mr Lane, the sale was less about the money and more about finding the “right fit”.
“But we’re very happy. I suppose if you look at it from an economic point of view [we got] return on our investment and return on our effort. Most importantly, we’re happy that it’s going to continue in its current form, everyone’s staying, all the tenants are staying as they are, Fraser’s gonna turn up and it’s going to be business as usual and I’m going to be there helping him,” he said.
The Lanes now plan to turn their attention to the other property they own just up the road, The Range, with the intention of regenerating and developing it into the site for an education program called Whole Beings for school children aged three to 10.
“We’ve got 120 acres at The Range and we’ve started planting our veggie gardens and having animals… we really wanted to just get back into an entire regenerative way of living, and focus on our kids and our passions,” he said.
However, Mr Lane said it’s very much a case of “watch this space”.
“We’re got a few more ideas bubbling in the background. We’ve got a bit more work to do [at The Range] and we’ll probably be focusing more of our energy on a couple more private regenerative farm-style operations, not open to the public, he explained.
“Maybe we’ll focus more on the accommodation side of things, the personal experience of coming to a farm as a guest and actually immersing yourself, one-on-one.