Overseas vision for bush foods led to unique Great Southern farming business

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Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
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Bjorn and Claudia Form with cinnamon myrtle leaf and product.
Camera IconBjorn and Claudia Form with cinnamon myrtle leaf and product. Credit: Laurie Benson

Living on the other side of the world in Switzerland, Claudia and Bjorn Form could scarcely believe there were not more people farming bush foods in Australia.

The couple thought it was such a good business idea that in 2005 they packed up their lives and moved to Lowlands, between Albany and Denmark, to do it themselves.

With family in Porongurup, they were already aware of some of the region’s bush foods, but they needed to know more before taking the leap.

They were sent up to 160 samples to test, before they chose their favourites and declared they would became bush food farmers in the Great Southern on a business visa.

Having never farmed before, Mrs Form said it was a big learning curve.

“No one in WA could actually help us because no one had grown those varieties before,” she said.

“In the Eastern States there had been a bit of a push for the industry, but not in WA which is why we focused a bit on the mainstream bush foods.

“We noticed that we were ahead of our time — especially in WA, the bush food market was almost non-existent.

“We had to work out which bush foods would grow and what actually to do with them.”

Cinnamon myrtle leaf and product.
Camera IconCinnamon myrtle leaf and product. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

When they arrived, they started to sow their plants straight away. But creating a demand for their boutique market was the next big hurdle.

“We first had to build up the farm and then the interest came bit by bit,” Mrs Form said.

“It was about four years before we got a crop out of it.

“The tourists and Perth visitors during holidays are very keen but it took a while before people in WA got interested in bush foods.

“There is a lot now going up to Perth in tea and spice manufacturing and many up-market restaurants.”

They once operated a cafe on their property, but as they got busier they decided to focus solely on the products.

Bjorn Form with lemon myrtle seedlings.
Camera IconBjorn Form with lemon myrtle seedlings. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

They now grow lemon myrtle, cinnamon myrtle, aniseed myrtle, strawberry gum and muntries, selling the produce through their business Flavours of Oz.

Mrs Form said she believed their fresh perspective, coming into Australia from overseas, helped them spot the opportunity.

“It is something really Australian and coming from outside you look for what is different,” she said.

“You take things for granted where you live.”

Their harvest is constant and picked fresh for orders with the help of backpackers and locals.

Milling and packaging is also done on their property.

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