On Thursday 31st of March, the long-anticipated Grower Training Day was held, to teach other landholders how to grow saline bush foods in any of the three growing systems.

Following the public release of the Industry Overview Manual in January 2022, six growers signed up to learn even more.

Unfortunately one participant and a number of the project team were unable to attend on the day, with many falling victim to COVID-19 isolation rules, but those that made it were in for a busy day.

Starting with an overview of sales, marketing and the future of the supply chain, the group then donned raincoats and headed to the Wild Harvest site. Here they saw the impacts of the scarification trial, had a turn at measuring groundwater in a piezometer and got their first taste of the challenges of finding the perfect specimen in a wild harvest situation.

After a delicious morning tea of karkalla sushi and fruit coulis meringues, the group then visited the plantation site. Here they saw a demonstration of the former machine in action, discussed site preparation and management before competing for the honour of “best saltbush sprig picked”. Judged by host farmer David Thompson, it was an excellent way to clarify in the participants minds exactly what the end consumer is looking for.

A stop by the production bores to look at the pump system and talk about groundwater quality was made.

A chance to sit down and enjoy a delicious lunch of pumpkin and saltbush quiche, saltbush lamb sausage rolls and a saline produce green salad was savoured over lunchtime. The break was well earned!

Afternoon saw the group head into the shadehouses to look at the irrigation set-up, get their hands dirty planting on some ice-plant seedlings, and checking out the liquid fertiliser system. The group also discussed power requirements, shadehouse design and management of pests and insects.

A convoy into town to visit the new Packing Shed was made, with KE Inc Chairman Matt Collis showing the group around, and sharing in the afternoon tea of saltbush lamb meatballs and chocolate slice.

Participants were all sent home with a copy of the restricted-release Technical Manual, as well as the Environmental Reporting outcomes.

Those that were still in Katanning that night enjoyed a meal together at the Dome restaurant, dissecting the events of the day and building relationships which will help potential new growers to become successful parts of the saline bush foods industry.