A unique training program designed to support the emerging bush food industry is being offered through North Regional TAFE (NRT) this month. The Connecting with Country program will provide students with skills in propagating a range of high value local bush foods including Gubinge, which continues to emerge as one of the most sought after and valuable bush foods in Australia.
The program commences on 21 May and will run Mondays to Wednesdays on Broome campus. On completion of the program, students will receive a Certificate II in Rural Operations AHC21216. Those wishing to take part in the Connecting with Country program are encouraged to contact NRT on 1300 996 573.
This follows the establishment of a pilot plantation at Ngalingkadji Community in the Fitzroy Valley late last year and an expansion of an existing plantation at Bidyadanga community with over 200 trees. The Bidyadanga plantation has produced commercial quantities of fruit for the past three years, although this year’s crop was depleted due to storms and heavy rain just prior to harvest.
Meanwhile a trial plot at the Department of Agriculture and Food’s Research facility at Carnarvon produced over 200 kilos of Gubinge from 25 trees in recently. The trial has been run by the Carnarvon Community Men’s Group which supports projects for indigenous men and youth. The trees were donated by North Regional TAFE’s Broome campus seven years ago.
NRT horticulture lecturer, Kim Courtenay – who has coordinated the Gubinge cultivation initiatives and is delivering the Connecting with Country program – said it was an exciting time for the bush food industry. “The success of the trial in Carnarvon demonstrates that Gubinge will grow across a wide area of the State,” Kim said. “This should encourage support for a local industry, following recent news that plantations have been established overseas,” he said.
In another development, the WA State Government recently launched the $5.9 million Transforming Agriculture in the Pilbara (TAP) project. The three year project aims to work in partnership with industry on prospective irrigation systems and research activities, including the commercial production of native foods.
NRT Broome Training Manager Jeffrey Cooper said that as well as covering skills and knowledge to grow innovative new species, the Connecting with Country program will cover contemporary land management, propagation and irrigation techniques. “The program will provide students with an edge in establishing sustainable produce in local conditions. It will also include a prescribed burning exercise at NRT’s Balu Buru site at 12 Mile, providing an insight into the huge difference traditional-style controlled burning has on country,” Jeff said.