The Sacred Grove
Located in Belvidere, just a short drive out of Strathalbyn, the Sacred Grove produces unique products that help you enjoy some of Australia’s most wonderful medicinal plants. Here we chat with the founder, Edmund Gooden to learn more about the Grove.
THE KEY STATS
- ✅ Year established: 2007
- 📍 Location: Belvidere, about 6 kilometres from Strathalbyn
- 🏡 Land size: 12 acres
- 🌱 Soil type: Heavy soils that are clay predominate and pH-neutral.
- 🚜 Energy: Solar and Battery which is on the 160 year old Barn function centre
- 💧 Water: It took 50 litres to establish the trees in the first year and now they require no more than the annual rainfall.
- 🌧️ Average rainfall: Around 350mm per year.
- 🥕 Main production: Australian native medicinal products, body rubs, essential oils, massage oils, herbal teas, bush oil, and bulk products for value-adding outside the farm.
- ⚡️ Capital: The land originally cost roughly $290,000, with significant establishment costs to create the wildlife haven it is today.
- 👩🌾 Labour: Edmund is the main worker.
- 🤝 Suppliers/ Inputs: The Sacred Grove works with olive oil and massage oil producers and tin, wax and label companies.
- 💰 Markets: Sacred Grove pops up at farmers’ markets, such as the Adelaide Farmers’ Market, and also sells to practitioners, online and to other businesses, actively collaborating with Indigenous Businesses.
- 👫 Reach: Most products are sold directly to the public at markets and via word of mouth. Often companies seek out Edmund’s unique products.
WHAT’S THE PROJECT, IN A NUTSHELL?
Founded by Edmund in 2007, the Sacred Grove is an organic farm in Belvidere where Australia’s finest medicinal plants are grown and used for healing products.
The company was originally established to communicate the important connection between people and nature, as well as for the promotion and protection of unique knowledge held by Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Edmund works with the Anangu peoples from the Central Desert, in particular those who live near Adelaide now, and other Indigenous Kaurna and Ngarrindjeri peoples close by.
The champion plants Edmund grows include Sandalwood (Santalum spicatum), Native Pine (Callitris gracilis) and the lesser known, Scented Emu Bush (Eremophila alternifolia). These particular plants are used in essential oils, teas, massage oils, and rubs.
These plants are thought to hold potent properties that deliver a connection between the user and the plant’s ancient heritage. They offer a variety of benefits, such as natural antibacterial qualities and potentially reducing pain.
“With the over-prescription in particular painkillers and antibiotics, why not turn to what our country has to offer?” Edmund says.
At Sacred Grove, the plants are produced with the intent to provide an “ancient encounter” that helps practitioners and general users follow a path to wellbeing and tranquillity.
HOW DID THIS ALL GET STARTED?
“The Grove is a personal expression of my unique and intimate relationship to the plants,” Edmund says.
Edmund forged this connection during his time living and working in the Great Victorian Desert or Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (the APY lands).
Over 7 years he received a request from an Elder to go forth and share this story or the Irmangka Irmangka, Scented Emu Bush (Eremophila alternifolia).
Growing up, Edmund held a deep appreciation for the natural world, bird watching as a young boy and progressing to work catching wild camels in the APY lands, in the remote north west of South Australia.
Over time he learnt about native medicinal and edible plants, first learning about the use of the Scented Emu Bush, “Irmangka Irmangka”, and its importance in traditional Anangu culture.
He received a request from an Elder to share this story of the Irmangka Irmangka.
“In times of difficulty I used to drink my infusion of olive oil and the Scented Emu Bush to reduce my inner being from being thrown in the never-never. It became a rudder to the ship or the anchor and allowed me to get up the next day and know that I am going to be okay,” Edmund says.
This sparked his journey towards the development of Sacred Grove as a means to cultivate and share these special plants.
“We grow these plants because they have been there for us and many other people in times of need.
“Scented Emu Bush bestowed its unconditional love upon us and this is why our Indigenous peoples love this plant – it becomes our friend, our soulmate and our guardian in times of need,” says Edmund.
ANY TIPS FOR THOSE WANTING TO START SOMETHING SIMILAR?
Edmund suggests to begin with knowing the plants incredibly well.
He also suggests to talk and live with Indigenous People who know the plants and to ask if they are okay with you growing the plants.
“Once you research the plant, you can begin to think about how you will best represent it. For example, will you utilise it in its dried form or fresh?”
The next step is to think about the market and spend time learning about what is already happening in the community.
Edmund recommends above all, determination.
He says it’s best to be in for the long haul because nothing comes instantly.
WHAT’S BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE SO FAR?
“There have been many challenges, primarily that lots of people do not know the plants let alone the products.”
Once the customer becomes more engaged with the products, they deepen their understanding of very important Australian medicinal plants and their roles in a traditional and contemporary context.
“It is a process of education,” Edmund explains.
He adds that the obscure mix of academic research available for consumers doesn’t make things easier.
“It really depends on the plant you are interested in. Some have lots of information and research behind them while others are a lot more obscure, which will naturally be harder to find.”
There’s a divide between producers and researchers too, meaning the potential for research on plants, like Australian medicinal, has yet to be fully unlocked.
WHAT’S THE BEST PART?
Edmund’s connection to these plants has been a lifelong venture and something that he enjoys the most.
Edmund is living his dream of giving more people the opportunity to enjoy these unique plants and carrying on the preservation and respect for the Anangu culture.
“This is a passion which is a part of me, I am obligated to these plants,” Edmund says.
Another big motivator for Edmund is to see his customers use the products and recognise the plant’s value and importance to Aboriginal Australians.
Edmund says part of being a true blue Aussie is understanding our country’s past, paying respects to our Indigenous peoples and loving our country.
TELL US ABOUT THE FUTURE – WHAT’S NEXT?
Sacred Grove’s end game is to have Australian medicinal plants protected by intellectual property rights so that Aboriginal peoples can be autonomous in their decision making in regards to these plants.
However, this process is hugely expensive and he hopes to one day create a team of likeminded people to enact this matter and enshrine it in law
This has been a long journey for Edmund, but something he passionately persists with.
He’ll also continue to support other small businesses to buy the raw plant materials and make their own unique products like oils, teas or soaps.
Over the past few years, Edmund has seen a welcome increase of visitors to the farm and hopes people will continue to come and learn, explore their connection with the plants and gain a unique experience.
Edmund also hopes to branch out and grow these plants at other locations in collaboration with Indigenous businesses.
As consumers, we can choose to support Edmund and Indigenous growers. Support will aid the ever-increasing industry to regain sovereignty and we can achieve this all through the combined love of these very special plants.
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