Our story really started when Nicole drove herself to the Emergency Department late one night. She had just been told that she had a rare condition in her right eye called Acute Retinal Necrosis (VZV). This meant that her retina in her right eye was deteriorating quickly and that it could spread to her left eye leaving her blind. Paul was on his way there. He was also concerned about their new pregnancy.
After weeks of treatment, and unfortunate loss of Paul and Nicole’s pregnancy, Nicole was left with very limited eyesight in her right eye. This led to her having to give up her position as a psychiatric psychologist in an acute care setting.
This is where Paul and Nicole’s life-story changed and their dream came alive. Paul, being a registered nurse on leave, asked Nicole to move to his farm so he could nurse her back to health. They had talked about their plans already of converting his beautiful farm in the Noosa Hinterland into an organic farm of some sort.
Paul’s farm at the time comprised of three rescue cows that were hand-raised by Paul as calves, a horse that had been abandoned, a rescue cat that Paul saved from a flooded river, chickens and a gentle giant dog. Paul transformed the fertile land into paddocks and garden beds using organic and intuitive farming processes that are also common permaculture practises. Swales were made & sustainable gravity-fed tank water systems were developed utilising hilled paddocks. Chickens, wild geese and native wildlife were allowed to forage across paddocks. Solar panels were installed on the main house.
An agronomist was consulted who encouraged them to grow native foods as the climate and soil quality was ideal for native fruit trees. They already had Bunya trees & Macadamia trees growing amongst native grevillea and melaleucas. They liked the idea as they had an appreciation of wholesome foods and both Paul and Nicole’s respect for Indigenous wisdom and history grew while each were working directly with Arrernte, Awabakal, Biripi and Dainggatti people. Paul as a builder then registered nurse and Nicole as a youth worker.
They researched the interest in native foods and got quite mixed responses. Local and country-wide providores stated that the industry was stagnant. Government research bodies outlined the difficulties to commercialise native foods due to unestablished production systems and unestablished markets. Government reports suggested further development of markets were required to achieve commercial sustainability. It was also hard to hear that Indigenous representation in the supply chain was less than 1%.
However, their intuitive understanding that interest in native food was growing, was supported by the beliefs of a local horticulturist who had more than 30 years experience growing native food plants and also by the appearance of native foods in more and more restaurants.
Discussions with Indigenous native food suppliers developed ideas of collaboration to boost the native food sector for all Australians to benefit – especially first nation people. This is Nicole & Paul’s inspiration: to get native foods in the Australian diet again.
Five species were initially selected for their taste, texture or uniqueness. Midyim Berries, Lemon Aspen, Sandpaper Fig, Finger Lime, and Davidson plum. They are compatible with the South-east Queensland climate and have wonderful nutritional values. Paul and Nicole are currently planting more Lemon Aspen and Midyim Berry as they think they’re fantastic. Lemon Aspen have a sharp tropical lemon- grapefruit flavour that bursts with flavour & antioxidants. Midyim Berries have an aerated crisp texture with blueberry, spice and eucalypt flavours – they are currently testing these for their antioxidant and vitamin C properties as research is limited on these.
On a personal note – Nicole (46) and Paul (52) fell pregnant again to a beautiful – now 3 yr old - girl. Also last year, after being told they had a much less than 2% chance of falling pregnant – they gave birth to an energetic and vibrant little boy – after a surprise natural pregnancy.
Paul and Nicole express much gratitude for the land and the creatures that dwell with them.