Doug and Tracey Goebel’s 40-acre block in the hills at Ropeley in the Lockyer Valley has come a long way from the “rock farm” it once was.
There are no bores and no dams, and Tracey jokes that if you want a rock, “all you have to do is just go and plough up a bit of ground” and you’re laughing.
The couple used to turn over small herds of sheep and cattle, but began losing money during the region’s crippling drought of recent years.
So in 2018 they established Native Oz Bushfoods, which has now become a rapidly expanding commercial enterprise servicing an “accelerating” demand for native Australian produce.
Slowly the arid property has been converted into a thriving 600-tree orchid of native fruits, seeds and salts, and there are hundreds more trees almost ready to be planted.
The main crops are Desert Quandong – a native peach (Santalum acuminatum), Old Man Salt Bush (Atriplex nummularia) and the increasingly popular wattle seed (Acacia victoriae).
Demand for the Goebels’ array of savoury jams, relishes and sauces is quickly outgrowing local farmers markets. They’re now suppling to a dozen wholesalers nationwide.
Tracey said the growing success of Native Oz Bushfoods has been the result of four years of initial research.
“We started to really think about what we could do with our block. We had this idea about native agriculture in our heads for a while, and then we just decided to do it, to make our block sustainable,” Tracey said.
Doug Goebel is a Bundgalung man. His family originates in the NSW Northern Rivers region and, these days, many of his relatives now live in the greater Ipswich area.
Doug said he and his wife had been in the Lockyer Valley for more than 20 years, but his interest in native bush tucker went back much earlier.
“Being Aboriginal, I’ve always had an interest in the fruits and plants from my culture,” he said.
“I spent a fair bit of time walking around with the elders when I was younger and I learnt a lot. I find that people get excited about this stuff. They get talking, and it gets me going more.
“I think there’s not enough education out there about native plants and fruits.”
The program provided Doug and Tracey with a 12-week training and mentoring program, which Tracey said gave them a great deal more confidence in themselves and their project.
“In the idea2business program, they give you the tools to help you do what you need to do,”
“They confirmed things that I was doing correctly and things I wasn’t doing correctly.
“The interest in bush foods is really accelerating. It’s full on. People are realising they want to eat healthier, they want to know what’s out there in the gardens.
“People want to be educated. It reassures us about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”