Article by By Liam Carroll from The Towny Frogmouth
It’s said, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Perhaps the same is true of a nation, that the way to Australia’s heart will be found through our native bush foods. That’s certainly what Bush to Bowl are proving, with their determination to help all Australians connect to culture and heritage through learning about the native plants and foods that Australians have grown and feasted upon for over 60,000 years.
100% Aboriginal owned and founded by Clarence Bruinsma, a Yaegl man, and Adam Byrne of Garigal country, Bush to Bowl operates on many levels. Fundamentally, their Terrey Hills nursery provides native plants to buy and grow at home or buy direct produce to cook in your kitchen. Beyond this though, is Clarence and Adam’s storytelling and educational abilities to use the native plants as a gateway to engage people in where the food comes from, what its uses have been for thousands of years, and how the country connects to the food, connects to the culture. This is incredibly powerful.
“I have vivid memories of mum coming to school to teach everyone how to cook damper or make Kangaroo stew,” Clarence recalls. “She knew to use food and cooking as a way to teach the kids, while also ensuring Aboriginal culture was upheld in the community. Her commitment to maintaining Aboriginal culture was not only inspirational, but effective.”
Clarence went onto study PDHP, always interested in sports and nutrition, but when starting out on his own teaching journey, and deploying the strategies of his mum to use cooking as a teaching aid for engaging students on the topics of Aboriginal culture and heritage, the interest was immense. The seed was sown for an imminent Bush to Bowl enterprise.
“Aboriginal culture is a journey,” Clarence explains. “You are always learning. But there are very few opportunities to connect. And it was on my own journey where I met Adam, a landscaper. We both had the same thoughts of using native plants and growing as a means to connect with people, to share the knowledge that comes with bush foods as part of something bigger.”
Modern agriculture is highly concentrated. Six of the main foods occupy 80% of our diet. The agricultural system has been cultivated and manipulated for these foods to run through huge harvesters and rapidly get to shelves. But as Clarence points out, “Native plants haven’t been manipulated in that way. When you put native plants into the ground, they actively put nutrients into the soil, rather than contemporary crops which rip nutrients out.”
This leads to a big part of Bush to Bowl’s mission. “There’s not enough knowledge across food, restaurant, agriculture landscape. It’s our role to educate, and that will help the broader adoption of native plants and foods, which in turn provides a gateway to learning more about the heritage of the plants, Aboriginal culture, so many things beyond simply the food we eat.”
The more knowledge we have, the more broadly native plants are adopted, the richer we all become. “Adam and I hope that by helping bring about increased knowledge of country, culture, food, we can win kids over to how empowering and meaningful this all is, and for the next generation to be stewards for the country. I want to leave this country in a strong place where Aboriginal knowledge and country is loved and understood and passed on.”