Damien Manno, the proprietor of Quality Harvest in Kudla, South Australia, might have one of the most fragrant farms in the country. However, after years of cultivating basil, he’s become immune to its delightful aroma. Despite this olfactory quirk, Manno’s journey from growing basil to cultivating native Australian herbs is both a testament to his family’s traditions and an innovative exploration of new market opportunities. In this article, we delve into his unique agricultural journey, which blends cultures, flavors, and sustainability.
Damien Manno’s Unexpected Career Shift Damien Manno’s path to herb farming was anything but conventional. Raised on a vineyard, he initially pursued winemaking before transitioning to the world of herbs. His decision to dive into hydroponic food production was driven by an innate connection to nurturing and growing green life.
Manno’s Hydroponic Basil Empire Quality Harvest, Manno’s hydroponic farm, has seen remarkable growth over the past decade. From initially producing 1,000 bunches of basil per week, it has now expanded to nearly 30,000 bunches weekly. His dedication to basil was influenced by his southern Italian heritage, where basil played a central role in his family’s culinary traditions.
Expanding Beyond Basil While basil was the initial focus, Manno’s farm has diversified to include an array of herbs such as coriander, mint, chives, and Asian greens. This diversification was driven by a desire to provide consumers with a broader range of fresh, high-quality herbs.
A Cultural Blend: Collaborating with Marlon and Daniel Motlop In a remarkable partnership, Damien Manno joined forces with former AFL players Marlon and Daniel Motlop to cultivate native Australian herbs and succulents under the brand Native Kitchen. Manno brought commercial growing expertise, while the Motlop brothers contributed cultural insights and knowledge of Indigenous life.
Cultivating Native Plants Indoors Native Australian plants traditionally thrive outdoors. Still, the collaboration decided to cultivate them in the controlled environment of Manno’s hydroponic facility to ensure a year-round supply. While not as potent as their wild counterparts, these native herbs and succulents still exude strong aromas.
A Cultural and Commercial Learning Experience Growing native herbs has been a two-way educational journey. Manno learned about Indigenous life and the cultural significance of native plants, fostering a deep appreciation for their value. On the other hand, the Motlop brothers adapted to commercial growing methods.
Marlon Motlop’s Advocacy for Indigenous Agriculture Marlon Motlop, in addition to his musical career, is a staunch advocate for Indigenous agriculture. He became the first Indigenous recipient of an agricultural scholarship from Nuffield Australia, allowing him to explore intellectual property rights related to crops globally. His mission is to protect Indigenous knowledge and products from being commercialized without acknowledgment.
A Fusion of Cultures and Flavors The collaboration between Damien Manno and the Motlop brothers represents a unique blend of cultures and flavors. Their shared passion for commerce and culture has not only broadened their own horizons but also holds the potential to introduce native Australian produce to a broader audience.
Damien Manno’s journey from basil farming to cultivating native Australian herbs showcases the potential for innovative thinking, cultural appreciation, and sustainable agricultural practices. As his farm continues to grow, it symbolizes the harmonious blend of traditions and the promise of introducing the world to the rich flavors of native Australian herbs and succulents.
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