Growing The Growers
Growing Eurobodalla’s local food supply is on track with the announcement of a new program delivered in partnership between SAGE’s Stepping Stone Farm and EcoCrews, a Campbell Page social enterprise.
The new EcoCrews program, funded by the NSW Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund, provides paid jobs with accredited training to local people so they can learn how to run a successful commercial market garden. Training will include planning, preparation, production, sales, distribution and how to use adaptive farming practices.
SAGE NSW Inc president, Mark Barraclough, says the partnership is one of the most exciting developments in SAGE’s mission to grow the local food community and secure a resilient local food supply for the community.
“Developing Stepping Stone Farm as a training facility for aspiring market gardeners was a huge step forward in our food security journey and this partnership allows this initiative to become even better,” Mr Barraclough said.
“Our commitment to training interns started in 2012 at the SAGE Garden in Moruya, and in 2019 we were able to lease good farmland west of Moruya. With the help of grants, donations and volunteers, SAGE developed a working market garden and training facility operating under the new name of Stepping Stone Farm. Joyce Wilke, an exceptional farm manager and educator joined the team the following year and the first interns started in October 2020,” said Mr Barraclough.
Campbell Page CEO Natalie Turmine is equally excited about the opportunities the program brings saying “This partnership is creating real prospects and sustainable jobs for locals. We’re not just growing food, but futures too. They’re getting fantastic hands on experience and skills working on the farm while getting paid”.
Stepping Stone Farm manager and educator Joyce Wilkie says the EcoCrew program will allow them to train and support more aspiring market gardeners in a unique and immersive way.
“The internships are a way to give new farmers a better chance of securing capital and land access and a chance to realise their farming aspirations,” Joyce Wikie said.
Stepping Stone Farm currently produces and sells a full range of seasonal produce available at the SAGE Farmers Markets and on their e-market on Tuesday afternoons in Moruya, and at some local cafes and restaurants.
“I encourage anyone with a genuine interest in pursuing local work and a business in commercial market gardening to consider applying. It truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity with great support,” said Joyce Wilkie.
Member for Bega Andrew Constance said the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund is one part of the $4.5 billion overarching bushfire support program co-funded by the Australian and NSW Governments for bushfire recovery, response and preparedness in NSW.
“More than a year has passed since we cleared 3,600 properties across NSW that were damaged or destroyed by the Black Summer bushfires and we are continuing to deliver the support that our region needs to keep moving forward in recovery,” Mr Constance said.
“People are rebuilding their lives and through the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund we are backing projects that will bring communities together, support tourism, provide improved or new social amenity, and increase preparedness to future bushfires. All of these things play a part in recovery.”
Applications for the EcoCrews program are open now. More information and how to apply is available at www.ecocrews.org.au or phone 1300 291 003.
Stepping Stone Farm is one part of the larger EcoCrews projects, supported by a $2,071,465 grant from the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund, co-funded by the Australian and NSW governments. For more information about the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund visit: www.nsw.gov.au/blerfund
The SAGE NSW Inc Farmers Market e-market is back up and running, offering Eurobodalla residents the chance to skip the queues and pre-order local produce online direct from the grower.
Complementing the Moruya Farmers Market at Riverside Park from 3pm each Tuesday, the e-market enables customers to “beat the bell” by shopping online for fresh, local produce over the weekend.