Flourishing native flavours

Newchurch Family Farm specialises in growing native plants and edibles, which it has been producing more and more since the closing of the borders brought about by COVID. Baking Business sat down with owner Daniel Newchurch to have a chat about their traditional farming practices and some of the delicious native ingredients they grow.

Tell us about Newchurch Family Farm.
Newchurch Family Farm is a family farm specialising in growing Native Australian Edible Produce.

What inspired you go down a route that focuses so heavily on native ingredients?
I chose native ingredients because they have a strong cultural significance to me. I am Aboriginal, part of the Wildu Clan of the Narungga people. My grandfather started the farm in the late ’90s and was initially growing native ingredients before switching to spring onions because there wasn’t a market for native produce back then. When he retired in 2018, he asked me to take over, and that’s when I decided I wanted to stay true to our cultural roots and start the native produce again.

Can you tell us about the native farming practices that you use?

Half of our farm is set up as wilderness, with thousands of Australian native trees, native to our area on the Yorke Peninsula. We use this as a wild foraging area that is designed to rejuvenate the soil and bring back the wildlife.
We use commercial harvesting practices for the majority of our plants, along with some wild harvest. The plants are cut or seeds collected and then processed for sale.

What are some of the native ingredients that you produce on the farm?
Saltbush, sea celery, sea parsley, warrigal greens, apple berries, river mint, gumbi gumbi, wattle seed, and quandong. We try to specialise in those plants that are best suited to growing in our region so that they go naturally, use less water, and don’t require fertiliser and chemicals to flourish.

What do you find is your most popular product? Why do you think that is?
Our most popular product is saltbush, primarily because that is what we specialise in. Dried saltbush has so many uses both for culinary purposes and skin care which makes it a versatile product for many markets.

Can you tell us a bit about the work that you guys have been doing educating the next generation about your practices?
We currently host school groups to the farm where we provide information on the plants, their uses and growing methods. We also teach through cooking and showing people how to use the ingredients we grow. Sharing knowledge is a big passion of ours and incredibly important so the native practices don’t get lost.

Do you have any advice to bakers looking to add more native ingredients to their products and ranges?
My advice is don’t be afraid to give it a go and experiment! There are so many unique flavours to explore. Start with some of the well-known natives such as lemon myrtle, as there is a wealth of recipes online. Many native ingredients can be used in the same way as their conventional equivalent, for example, sea celery can be used in the same way you would use celery from your local supermarket.

Once your ingredients are harvested, what processes does they go through before going onto the market for sale?
With saltbush we cut the stems and place them in a special drying system. Once the leaves are dry they are processed into 2mm flakes and are then packaged for sale.

What are the challenges associated with producing those ingredients?
Native ingredients are a niche market, and as such it is more challenging to get the products out there as quickly to a wider market, and some ingredients are not as commonly known and the uses aren’t commonly known either.

Where does your produce typically go?
Our products are used in a wide variety of things, predominantly restaurants in Australia, the skin care industry and beverage industry.

When is your peak harvest?

What are the plans for Newchurch Family Farm’s future?
We would like to continue to grow the farm and increase our production. We would also like to create a more permanent facility to host workshops and tours in the future.

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