G’Day to Galeru
A community enterprise is fulfilling a 25-year-old vision for growing and celebrating bush food. Matt Golinski shares the story of Galeru.
Back in 1997, Martha Shepherd and David Haviland bought a steep, rocky 11 acres on the outskirts of Cooroy which to most people would have looked like nothing more than an investment in a great view and a way to develop strong leg muscles.
But to them it was an opportunity to build a forest. One that combined their new-found love of native bush foods and Martha’s experience in business and marketing.
And so ‘Galeru’ was born. Two species of Syzigium (or lillypillies) were widely planted as a commercial crop on the property, commonly known as riberries and satinash, the couple value-added the fruit and marketed them as ‘Rainberries’ and ‘Raincherries’ respectively.
They also planted other native fruits such as Blue Almonds, Davidson Plums, White Aspen, Cinnamon Myrtle, Illawarra Plums, Native Tamarind and Native Gingers.
In 2006 Martha received an award for Rural Businesswoman of the Year, largely for her work developing a ‘value chain’ model of agribusiness, where small producers like herself work together to create an income from a fruit yield that may otherwise be unprofitable.
Sadly, just as the trees were coming of age and the business was booming, David’s health was declining due to the humidity of the tropical paradise they were living in, so the farm was sold and they moved to South Australia, where they still work in the bush food industry.
Unfortunately, the new owners of the property didn’t share the same passion for native fruits, and the now expansive and well-established orchard was neglected for many years, becoming overgrown with vines and weeds.
A couple of years ago, local Ginny Mobbs saw the potential of what was lying under those vines, leased the property and began the laborious task of rehabilitating what was once a thriving farm. Her interest and background in medicinal plants and passion for sustainable living became a journey of learning about the fruits as not only a food source but also for their powerful health-giving properties as well.
Her dream was cut short in early 2021 when the owners of the property decided to sell and she had to vacate.
All that hard work didn’t go to waste though – the new owners, SevGen Aboriginal Corporation, purchased the land with a similar vision – to carry on the good work Ginny had started. She’s now working for them tending to the trees and harvesting the fruit to sell to local restaurants and distillers.
But SevGen’s plans go much further than just being bush food producers.
Their philosophy that their actions today will affect their people seven generations into the future, while drawing on the wisdom of seven generations past, means they’ll focus on turning the property into a place of learning and healing, helping young people discover new passions and purpose, developing skills while being mentored by their indigenous elders.
Managing Director of SevGen, Terri Waller, is a powerhouse of ideas and support, and plans to use the opportunity that Galeru presents to fulfil the corporations visionary 3E model: Enterprise, Education and Entrepreneurship.
Galeru has a long way to go before it is back to full health, but it’s a beautiful thing to see it now getting the love and respect it deserves. The indigenous foods that it produces are quickly becoming sought after by chefs all over the world for the unique ingredients they are, and that demand will just continue to increase over time.
To enquire about the availability of produce, contact Terri