Bush to Bowl’s Clarence Bruinsma connects Country through food

From the heart of the Northern Beaches, Bush to Bowl blooms intertwining ancient wisdom with modern sustainability to bring what nature has to offer to dining tables of locals.

Owned by Clarence Bruinsma (a Yaegl man) and Adam Byrne (of Garigal/Gadigal Country), this Terrey Hills social enterprise aims at creating a healing space and platform for First Nations people by connecting to Country and their traditional foodways. For Clarence, a Narrabeen local, Bush to Bowl is more than a business. It’s a spiritual journey to a deeper understanding and connection with land.

“It’s not just horticulture,” he explains. “It’s about nurturing a relationship with plants, from farming to foraging, in the most sustainable way possible,” Clarence says.

Respecting and understanding nature’s rhythms is part of their way of giving back to culture and to Country. “We believe strongly about protecting these spaces now and in the future.”

The idea was born in 2021, after a conversation with Adam, who, as a landscaper, realised that there was not much access to edible native plants in the landscape.

“Our biggest mission is connecting first and foremost Aboriginal people to their Aboriginal culture. We have people who are still learning and on that journey to connect with Country and value Mother Earth as much as we do,” says Clarence.

Adam and Clarence

Through workshops spanning diverse demographics, from preschoolers to corporates, they sow the seeds of ecological consciousness, with food being a fundamental key for reconnecting with nature.

“One of our biggest philosophies is that food is a process of connection in terms of understanding and working more closely and connecting to nature. We want people to fall in love with nature, Country and not be so disconnected. And food is just a way of starting that journey,” Clarence shares.

To Clarence, growing up in his Aboriginal community and being connected to his culture early in his life has given him a better understanding of his relationship with nature and the base to build his business and give back to the wider community by sharing their ‘ancient culture’ knowledge.

“I’m grateful because I know there are many people who have missed that opportunity because of past government policies and past things that have happened.

“We’ve got a kinship or family obligation to look after Country, Mother Earth and those plants and animals and insects.”

As a teacher and Aboriginal education consultant, Clarence understands the challenges of sharing that knowledge with the community.

“We occasionally run free workshops for Aboriginal people and install free gardens and cultural spaces for Aboriginal community groups,” he says.

With regards to ‘Western society,’ Clarence says that although there are different values, there is always an opportunity to connect and learn together.

“Connect firsthand with Aboriginal people. Sit with them, build a relationship, and learn together,” he adds. “Sit with your local community and learn about them. Try to connect with your local bush and fall in love with local nature.

“In First Nations societies, things are done in a circular fashion. Everything we do now affects the world, its history, and its ongoing connections.

“People are trying to learn about meditation and slowing down because they’re stressed, depressed and anxious. Our culture is about doing things at the right pace. Slow down and do it at the right pace for you and for everything around you.”

Bush to Bowl will feature in the Gai-mariagal Festival at Singing up Country on 7 July: gai-mariagal-festival.com.au