Black Duck Foods success journey
Aboriginal people have thrived on what is now known as Australia for thousands of years. Earliest colonial records describe vast and flourishing plains of grain, and later research has demonstrated a wide-spread use of cultivated native plants as part of the diets of First Nations people. A map developed in the 1970s illustrates a grain belt across most of Australia from west to east – in areas where western crops are not suited, but where native plants have been cultivated for millennia.
Bruce Pascoe, a teacher, academic and farmer from the Bunurong and Yuin peoples, had a vision of mobilising people around Australia to take a part in growing a new business ecosystem around farming traditional foods.
First Australians Capital supported this vision – investing in Black Duck Foods and helping start Bruce’s farm as a social enterprise that gives back to Country, people and culture.
“Without First Australians Capital, Black Duck Foods would still be a vision documented on paper. Their support made it happen – turning a concept into a reality that is growing every day” – Bruce Pascoe, Founder of Black Duck Foods.
As an Indigenous social enterprise, Black Duck Foods focuses on delivering social outcomes through a sustainable business model.
The farm has been the nucleus of the Black Duck Foods journey – the starting place, and the place from which all the learning and research can be disseminated through the community. As the hub of research and knowledge, the farm not only provides jobs to Aboriginal peoples, but also provides a culturally safe space to learn about traditional agriculture and Caring for Country.
“People come to the farm and have a yarn with us. We share what we’ve learned. We don’t say it’s the only way to do it, but we’re happy to show them what’s going on here and share knowledge and understanding with different mobs” – Chris Andrew, GM Black Duck Foods
Over the past year, Black Duck Foods has re-established native crops on the farm, allowing the Country to heal. Despite the summer bushfires, they’ve successfully completed a number of small-scale harvests. With that experience, they are now looking towards the next step in the journey which is to scale their operations – commercialising seed production to plant more Country with native grains.
The vision of the future
Black Duck Foods sees native grains and tubers as a way of telling the First Nations stories. Commercialising ancient agricultural techniques and farming native species will help drive change outside the farm gate.
“It’s systemic change. We want people consuming native foods. We want them thinking about new ways of doing business; we want to set up a new market, with equitable distribution of revenue; we want to showcase and grow other First Nations’ businesses within that market. We’re building infrastructure for the future – people, culture and country.” Chris Andrew, GM.
Black Duck Foods is already having an impact – employing Aboriginal people and sharing traditional knowledge with communities around Australia. The aim is to drive Indigenous economic empowerment through food: taking traditional organisations into the mainstream, creating jobs across the ecosystem and revitalising regional Australia.
The impact is greater than just one business. Through inspiring other Indigenous farming enterprises, setting up a supply chain, engaging Indigenous businesses in accounts, transport, marketing, there will be an impact across the whole business ecosystem – all based on thousands of years of traditional knowledge.