Welcome to the 2020 AGM.
I’m sure you’ll agree, this has been a year unlike any other. But here we are, largely healthy and nervously happy wondering what the next challenge might be.
Before I go into my report, I would like to introduce Joyce Wilkie to you all.
Joyce Wilkie originally trained as a Geologist and completed her Ph.D. at Monash University in 1979. After meeting her late husband Michael Plane she put her academic career on hold to raise a family at Allsun Farm. Within a very short time she was turning her hand to making money from the small vegetable garden. First it was seedlings then a planting calendar for the Southern Tablelands of NSW and finally an ebook on growing annual vegetables. Allsun Farm produces vegetables, fruit, eggs and pork for families and restaurants in Canberra. It is also the home of the online garden tool company Gundaroo Tiller. Joyce has taught Organic Farming at CIT, market gardening short courses through Milkwood Permaculture and trained a number of successful market gardeners through an intern program at Allsun Farm. Her children and friends have generously stepped up to look after the tool business and the farm enabling her to work full time on the Stepping Stone Farm adventure.
We are indeed very pleased you have joined us Joyce and look forward to a successful, productive and happy future together.
Understandably many of our activities and programs have gone on hold since late December.
Let me list some of the achievements for this past year:
Our most public activity has been the Farmers Market, declared an essential service and open every week adapting to the ever-changing conditions. We have continued to provide food to the community throughout the fires, floods and now COVID with the support of our growers and importantly our customers. But the growers have been doing it tough too, with drought then fires, resulting in loss of production and sadly, in some cases, complete loss of their business. There was a lot of hurt around and in January we decided to provide some token relief by waiving stall fees for the month.
Amy Whiting, in her first year, has had a lot to deal with. Issues with stall holders, customers, COVID protocols to name a few, but it has been well managed and we are very thankful for your efforts.
Once we were advised that we could operate, the COVID protocols were put in place and at the same time the e-market exploded with orders reaching a peak of 55 and now averaging out in the mid 30’s range each week. That is up from less than 10 pw. Of course, these e-market orders need some massaging so they can be assembled and distributed. Geoff Scott had been managing the whole process with a few volunteers for many years, but with the increased volume something had to change. The FM committee rallied and collaboratively redesigned the processes and importantly stepped up to now having a very active roster of volunteers to assist with the receiving, sorting, assembly and distribution of orders. It’s made a huge difference and Geoff is far less stressed. So thank you everyone who has been part of that journey and thank you Geoff for your dedication to the e-market.
Working bees and the mowing roster have continued most months keeping the garden in shape. We formalised Kat Cathcart’s role as Caretaker and in return she gets to grow veg and earn some income. Thanks to Wendy, Adrian and the volunteers for all their hard work and to Kat for her continued support and belief in SAGE.
We welcomed the Eurobodalla Amateur Bee club to the garden.
The community plots continue to be productive and well used.
The community food program goes from strength to strength with the generous support of IMB. Fourteen wicking beds were installed at St John’s church and are now fully utilised by local charities and a further 50 raised garden beds were installed in concession holders back yards. The Veggies for All (V4A) program has installed a total of >200 raised beds.
We continue to supply vegetables grown here at SAGE or donated by the growers to the refuges and Anglicare in Moruya. Kathryn has applied for further IMB grant funding to extend the V4A program and replace the wicking beds at SAGE. Thank you to the team of volunteers doing the installs and to Kathryn Maxwell and Alda Rudzis dedication and hard work throughout the year.
Sandra and her team have had a truncated year with essentially December being the last month when anything was arranged. Three workshops were conducted, grafting fruit trees, backyard veggie gardening series of four workshops and pizza dough making. The catering events were the SAGE 10th anniversary, EFTAG fashion parade for 200 people, LLS workshop for 20, Moruya Bookshop and Christos Tsiolkas for 120 and who could forget the summer solstice where we gave the new pizza oven a real work out. Thank you to the events and education team.
The Federal Government CDG grant of $50,000 came through allowing us to start the Stepping Stone Farm initiative. We have since received some very generous donations, over $74,000 from community members and $13,000 from the Business Council of Australia, which have allowed us to kick start the farm. We are in the running for several other grants but more on that when they come to fruition. In addition, we now have a crowd funding campaign under way which has raised over $5000.
Which leads me to Stepping Stone Farm. This is the realisation of our strategic plan dating back in 2016. Our aim was to establish a training farm with a full time employed mentor to strengthen our “grow the growers” initiative. Unlike our past intern program, this will be a fully immersive experience for the four students on 2200m2 of very good Deua river flats.
A lease was signed in November 2019 and the farm infrastructure is now mostly finished – fencing, ring irrigation line, tanks, shed complex that includes wash areas, classroom and undercover storage and the poly caterpillar tunnel.
Our sincere thanks to the many volunteers who’s input has brought all this together, to Stuart for the vision and design of the buildings and to Cath Reilly for your role in securing the land.
SSF has been set up as a separate incorporated association under the control of SAGE. Finally, we have employed Joyce Wilkie as our inaugural Mentor/Farm Manager and we are in the process of recruiting four interns. Production has started with seedlings…we are under way…exciting times ahead.
So, it has been a busy year, perhaps just not in the way that is obvious to the greater community.
It is true that SSF has taken a huge effort in resources, time and energy and in many ways, we wouldn’t be where we are if times were normal, but we will continue to promote the many SAGE initiatives and programs we are known for as the circumstances allow.
For many of our SAGE community this has been a very stressful year and for many it has heralded in significant life changes. The sense of community, in some respects, has been put on hold but we are still here, and the SAGE management committee are very positive about the future… in some ways it is our time to shine.
So, we encourage you to stay involved, to support us and your own community as we all navigate the new norm.
In conclusion, I thank the SAGE management team.
Neil Dolphin who generously gives his time as treasurer,
Jan Maitland has been Secretary for three years and is standing down, thanks Jan, and the committee members who enthusiastically are very generous of their time and guidance.
And to the subcommittee convenors and their teams –
Wendy Jones – SAGE Garden
Adrian Cram – Facilities coordination
Stuart Whitelaw – Farmers Market
Sandra Makdessi – Education and Events
Alison Walsh – Grants
Kathryn Maxwell and Alda Rudzis – Community Food
Cath Reilly – Marketing and Communications
Marie Zuvich – Membership