The Dirt: Matthew Horton

Matthew Horton from Rainy Lane makes cold pressed juices. Each week he gently coerces a few hundred litres of goodness out of boxes and boxes of fresh produce from the Sydney basin. He works from his kitchen in Newtown and delivers his product to places like Cornersmith, Kitchen By Mike, Luxe Bakery, Suzie Q and more.

Rainy Lane started around a year ago, borne of Matthew’s passion for honest, good quality food, made with respect for the ingredients and the people who produce them. Nothing fancy, nothing evangelical, just a good juice, made with care and intent. This approach permeates all aspects of the business – from the way the waste is handled, to the juice packaging and ingredients.

Matthew got into juice a few years ago. He got sick, and couldn’t work out what was wrong. ‘The doctors kept saying I was the healthiest sick person they had seen!’ During this time he went to London, staying with friends who made him juices every morning.

When he returned home he continued drinking juice, but couldn’t find a product he loved. ‘The flavours were boring, and whilst the juice brands often started from a good place, using good ingredients, they usually ended up changing as they got bigger. There was always room in the market for me’, he says.

His approach to Rainy Lane juice has been shaped by the people and places he’s worked, on both sides of the world. ‘From London to Sweden and back to my home in Sydney, I’ve been lucky enough to have learnt from a broad community of food folk who’ve inspired me to work sustainably, support local farmers, cafes and restaurants, and help my thoughts regarding our food systems evolve and develop’, he says.

Food can be such a simple and beautiful idea, so we try to keep our products and practices as clean, balanced and unadulterated as possible.’

I like Matthew’s approach to food and nutrition. He comes from a practical and rather sensible place. ‘People ask me if I do cleanses. I ask them what they’re trying to clean? The body cleans itself, and by putting good things into our body we’re helping the process’, he says. ‘You wouldn’t eat five apples a day, why would you drink five juices a day?’ And then he makes this brilliant analogy: ‘The body can be viewed as a compost system – If it’s too watery you have to put some fibre in, if its full of burgers a good juice will help get things moving again.’

Could it be that caring for ourselves with food could be this simple, sensible and moderate?

Spending time in Matthew’s kitchen made me realise just how much effort goes into producing one small jar of juice, when made by a small operation like Rainy Lane.

Matt does it all – from picking citrus from a farm in Sommersby, north of Sydney, to lugging it up two flights of stairs to his kitchen, to chopping, squeezing, tasting, adjusting, pouring, bottling, labelling, delivering and more. ‘There is a lot of love put into everything we make’, he says.

This love is clear, and is obviously the strongest motivator for developing Rainy Lane in to a business. Matt’s perspective on the business side of things is interesting. When asked about this he quotes food production pioneer Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, in the USA; ‘I have no desire to upscale or get bigger. My desire is to produce the best food in the world and heal. And if in doing so, more people come to our corner and want stuff then heaven help me meet the need without comprising integrity.’

Matthew’s integrity is clear, and is applied to all facets of Rainy Lane and its output. For example, the waste produced by the juicing process is collected by a company called Earth Power, who compost food waste in an anerobic digester, producing a gas which is used to fuel cogeneration engines which then feed electricity back into the energy grid. The sludgy byproduct of the anerobic digestion is dried and granulated and turned into fertilizer. His juices are sold in glass jars, and he supplies them to his stockists in timber crates. The empty jars are then placed back in the crates for pick up by Matthew on his next juice delivery. They’re then cleaned, sterilized and re-used.

There’s much more in the pipeline for Matthew Horton and Rainy Lane – juice is just the beginning. ‘I would love to start a small, community driven kitchen to inspire and share food stories, or open a retail shop, and utilize the waste from the juicing process to create more products. Ideally the core ideas and values of Rainy Lane would drive the business to evolve over time’, he says.

It’s easy to not think about things. To consume without knowledge of how a product got to our hands and into our mouths. Thinking, and making conscious decisions about what we eat and where it comes from can be like diving into a rabbit warren. For this reason alone, people like Matthew Horton are the food creators I want to support. He is making ethical decisions for us as consumers so when we choose to buy his juice, we’re supporting the systems he is supporting. Its clear, like Joel Salatin, Matthew’s focus is firmly on the product he is creating. ‘If you focus on business you’ll get a business’, he says. ‘But if you focus on creating a good product, you’ll get one.’ He’s got one.
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