For many Australians food is the centre of celebration, bringing together family, friends and loved ones. Ngemba Weilwan woman, Sharon Winsor is bringing traditional, native foods to the table with her company, Indigiearth.
Turning gathered bush tucker into gourmet feasts, Ms Winsor works with ingredients like sea parsley, native bush salt, green ants and Kakadu plums to create over 200 products including native foods, teas, candles and skincare.
Originally from western NSW, Ms Winsor began working with native foods over two decades ago in Mt Druitt on the outskirts of Sydney.
“I started doing bush tucker catering and traditional dance and it was through that process over many years I realised there was a lack of authentic products in the market,” Ms Winsor said.
“That is what led me to wanting to develop my own. Over a 15-year period I did a lot of research [and] established a lot of connections with communities across the country to source lots of ingredients.”
In 2012, Ms Winsor relocated to Mudgee, NSW – heading back to her country.
“I hit rock bottom in Sydney after a divorce, and severe domestic violence. I just wanted to get back to country and restart my life,” Ms Winsor said.
“I’ve been through depression and [the need] to heal myself which made my business evolve more – as my connection and spirituality grows … my connection to country gets stronger through food.”
Ms Winsor officially launched Indigiearth in 2012.
“For me, food has been my connection to culture, to language, to spirituality and to my identity. And that’s how I’ve found myself and reconnected to myself,” Ms Winsor said.
“That’s one of the big things I’m trying to do, I’d love people to connect to our culture through food. People can connect … and appreciate it by using native foods.”
With a spiked interest from mainstream markets, there is hope that native foods will become an everyday ingredient in household meals.
“There’s a lot more people buying ingredients from us because of the health benefits – whether its tea or superfood powders. They are realising that, our people have survived for 60,000 years – we are doing something right,” Ms Winsor said.
“Something simple like replacing a regular tea with a native tea – that will help with blood pressure and blood circulation and reduce cholesterol, there’s so many health benefits and that includes mental health.”
Ms Winsor is particularly passionate about passing on her knowledge of food to people from all walks of life.
“I do masterclasses so I’m sharing traditional knowledge and that understanding of where the plant comes from, what they do in that community, how they access it, what the medicinal benefits are and the cultural significance.”
Native food, although now attracting keen interest, has often been an area of traditional life that stays out of the commercial spotlight.
“A lot of our community has missed out on the commercial side … the bush food industry is big on an industrial level. It’s worth almost $30 million per year, but Aboriginal ownership is only 1 percent of that – that’s how far behind our communities are,” Ms Winsor said.
Indigiearth aims to work with communities to create ethical relationships and to ensure that cultural practices stay a main priority.
“Most communities don’t want big commercial farming because doing that would be the wrong thing culturally. We need that connection to country and respect for Mother Earth,” Ms Winsor said.
“I’ve been working in communities helping them break into the commercial market, if they choose to, and helping them understand what is happening commercially so they are not being taken advantage of by big buyers.”
Indigiearth will be hosting cooking demonstrations at Paddy’s Market in Haymarket, Sydney on Saturday October 5 – an exciting event for the brand.
“It’s quite exciting – particularly that Paddy’s Markets aren’t just implementing this during NAIDOC or Reconciliation Week,” Ms Winsor said.
“They want to have it because it’s something good and something they’re passionate about and want to promote. It’s so meaningful when these things happen.”
After 22 years, Indigiearth has had a long journey of evolution leading towards to the success it has now, but Ms Winsor said this is just the beginning.
“It’s been 22 years of learning and I’m still learning, always learning. There’s quite a lot of bush tucker stuff out there – we have over 6,000 edible species in this country, so we have quite a lot and there are so many communities and departments that contact me for help,” Ms Winsor said.
“I really feel that if every tribal area sticks to what is traditionally grown on that country, everyone can have a piece of the pie, everyone can share in medicinal health and all those benefits – and we are looking after our Mother Earth too.”