It’s hard to believe there was a time when farming without chemicals was looked at with suspicion. But that was the reality in Australia just a few decades ago, says Ivan Oulianoff.
“My father [Stephen] was an organic farmer from the late 1960s, so he was doing it before there was much studied on it in Australia,” he tells Broadsheet. “It sounds silly now … but it was seen as something weird or different to actually grow without chemicals.”
In 1982, Stephen bought Frickers Food Conspiracy in the Central Market and renamed it Central Organic. It was the first Central Market stall to be certified by the Organic Growers and Retailers Association of Australia.
Thanks to his father’s influence, Ivan, who now runs the stall with brother Alex, has been driven to reduce his impact on the environment ever since. It’s a goal shared by neighbouring market stall House of Health, owned by Robert and Chester Frank. With Central Organic’s focus on fruit and vegetables long complementing House of Health’s range of whole and bulk foods, coming together to form a larger operation seemed almost inevitable.
“We realised some time ago we have always had the same vision relating to sustainability, zero-waste and organic produce,” says Chester. “Only a few years ago we came to the realisation that to have significant impact in these areas, we needed to merge the businesses ... Stronger in numbers.”
The result, House of Health Collective, officially opened last Friday. The mega stall is stacked with steel drums of organic pearl barley, chick peas, borlotti and black beans, muesli blends and more, tubes of nuts and grains, and Australian olive oil and jellybush (manuka) honey on tap. Bring your own reusable containers (or use the store's bio-plastic packaging, made from plant starch).
“By joining together we’ve been able to get some efficiencies of labour, and also bring in more product,” says Ivan. “There are quite a few products that are really affordable now, particularly the sustainable products – [paper] straws, that sort of thing. We think if you make them more accessible, it will become a bit more mainstream, and it will actually start a bit of a movement … we’re not seeking to make a huge amount of money out of it, we just want to get it out there.”
A new cafe, Field to Fork Wholefoods Kitchen, is the centrepiece of the redesigned space. It focuses on plant-based dishes made with produce from its parent stalls, and is run by Robert’s partner, Danielle Komarek (the pair met when Danielle got a job at House of Health). Expect organic coffee (from nearby SOHO Coffee Roasters), cold-pressed juices and smoothies, plus ginger-turmeric and elderflower kombucha and kvass (a fermented brew made from rye bread) on tap. There's also CocoWhip "ice cream" (a dairy-free soft serve made from coconut water) and raw desserts. Danielle has long been supplying raw treats to Adelaide businesses under the name Raw Delights.
“When you wholesale, you have to do the same thing every week; the shops expect [it],” says Danielle. “This is where I can kind of have fun and say, ‘I feel like that cake this week, and that cake next week’.”
There’s also a salad bar, and – perhaps the biggest drawcard of all – a peanut butter “fountain”. It’s simple, but mesmerising. “There’s no nasties added to it – it’s just 100 per cent Australian ground peanut butter,” says Danielle. “You could buy a shot of it, or there’s opportunities to add it to one of our other things, whether that’s a CocoWhip, or a crepe or waffles down the track.”
The cafe has accelerated the businesses’ goals of becoming zero-waste. Recycled timber is used in the fit-out, and fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be discarded due to blemishes are used to make juices and cakes. “At this stage, we’re pretty close to having no products going into landfill at all,” says Alex. “Right down to the coffee cups. We’re using RecycleMe, which turns them into high-end paper products.” Even the coffee grounds are re-used to make a range of face and body scrubs.
House of Health Collective
Stalls 72–75, Adelaide Central Market
Wed & Thu 9am–5.30pm
Sun & Mon closed