Indigenous plant nursery on our doorstep

Coby Roots, Mick Badham and Matt Sing have been busy in the hot house.
Coby Roots, Mick Badham and Matt Sing have been busy in the hot house.

The newest venture of the Moonbahlene Local Aboriginal Land Council is taking root, literally, with a retail outlet for its indigenous plant nursery in the pipeline for the coming Spring.

The new hot house in Railway Street has been operating about a month behind Moonbahlene's Men's Group shed. While the facility is still receiving some tweaks the propagation tables are groaning under the weight of masses of seedling trays growing on a variety of plants known for their edible and/or medicinal qualities.

"Come spring we'll have plenty of stock," coordinator Matt Sing said.

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The project was established with a $110,000 grant from the NSW Aboriginal Land Council. Members of the aboriginal community are working on site, along with Work for the Dole and court-ordered community service workers.

Much of the seed has been sourced from Mick Badham, a familiar face at local markets where he sells native plants. Mick is also helping out on the project, where his vast knowledge of 25 years growing bush tucker can be tapped.

Although some seeds can be more challenging, the setup is currently achieving a 60-70 per cent germination rate. Mick said some, however, can take 3-5 years to sprout.

Moonbahlene is fortunate to have access to his expertise. He referred to himself as the resident emu to pass ideas through, saying how some seeds do better after they've passed through a bird's gut.

Germinating success. Photo by Matt Sing.

Germinating success. Photo by Matt Sing.

Matt said the aim is to establish a local industry, and one of its prospective customers is the indigenous food and spice business already operated by Matt with Helen Duroux. (Their products are available from Taylors Cafe and, on occasion, at the Farmers and Producers Market.)

Moonbahlene plans to provide recipes and usage information -- citing both the Murri and English names -- along with sales, so that the enterprise becomes an educational resource on the properties of plants indigenous to the district. It may even develop into a tourism attraction, giving travellers another reason to stop over in Tenterfield.

Matt said the plants will be suited to growing in the near vicinity, with some identified as doing better in areas east to Drake or in the western reaches of the shire. Moonbahlene still needs more properties to set up as seed orchards, so make contact if you can help.

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