Tucked away in one of the poorest suburbs of Wollongong, a city built on mining and manufacturing industries that are now in decline, lies an 11-acre permaculture farm that gives young people and former refugees a chance to learn new skills, try new things, make mistakes, meet new people, and make a difference.
Green Connect Illawarra is a not-for-profit social enterprise that runs this farm and three other businesses that are all committed to creating jobs for young people and former refugees (who have the highest unemployment rates in the region) that make the planet and the community better.
The farm uses permaculture and organic principles to grow fruit, vegetables, herbs and free-range animals, and sells weekly fruit and veg boxes as well as eggs, meat and honey to local residents. The farm is completely chemical-free, using no pesticides or other nasties. They’re instead applying regenerative agriculture techniques to build healthy soil, clean waterways and showcase what is possible in an urban environment. And the results are stunning! In what was once a weed-infested wasteland there are now market gardens, food forests and native creeklines. There are birds, bees, lizards and all manner of living things.
Green Connect have achieved incredible environmental results in just five years, and their customers are healthier for it. At the same time, they know that growing food is an incredibly effective vehicle for achieving social change, especially amongst groups of people who can easily feel disempowered.
As Farm Manager Callum Champagne says, “When growing food, you tend to get out what you put into it. If you don’t look after your soil, plant your seedlings and seeds carefully, and don’t pay attention to maintaining weeds and pests while the veggies are growing, the chances are your crop is going to be pathetic. But if you care for your veggies, like the living things that they are, then you will be rewarded with the biggest and the tastiest veg you can get!”
For young people and former refugees, who can often feel like so much in life is outside of their control, seeing this reward for the hard work they have put in can be a truly empowering experience. By engaging with Green Connect, these unemployed and in some cases unemployable folks gain skills, experience and confidence, and more often than not go on to gain fulfilling jobs in mainstream employment.
It just goes to show what a group of motivated people can achieve.
* The words above were kindly provided by Kylie Flament, General Manager of Green Connect Illawarra.
- To find out more about the amazing work the Green Connect group do in the Illawarra region, check out their facebook page.
- Get your green thumb out and get involved in community gardening in your local area. It’s a great way to connect with nature and your community.
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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.