24 October 2023

Sowing seeds for peace, volunteers help prepare for Goulburn’s Farmers Market on Saturday

| John Thistleton
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three people in garden

Goulburn Farmers Market founder Rita Warleigh with volunteers Anong Bounmixay and her father Bounsong, from Laos. Photo: John Thistleton.

Two international volunteers in Goulburn helping to prepare for the inaugural farmers market on Saturday have come with the hope of peace.

From Laos, Anong Bounmixay and her father Bounsong are members of the International Volunteers for Peace movement. The organisation was introduced to Australia by Rita Warleigh, who has engaged volunteers to establish a farmers market for the Goulburn community.

Peace-loving Australians are horrified by the conflict in the Middle East, and environmental and voluntary groups in Taralga, Goulburn and Crookwell have embraced Anong and Song and their peaceful aims and willingness to pitch in and help.

Goulburn Mayor Peter Walker will open the farmers market at 8 am. It will close at 11 am and Rita hopes people will come for breakfast, because the Goulburn Men’s Shed will have a barbecue, a coffee van will be operating, and fresh sourdough and other baked delights will be available.

Stallholders will also meet Anong and Song, as her father is known. This is Anong’s second visit to Goulburn. She helped set up at the Goulburn Show earlier this year. A project officer in Laos for International Volunteers for Peace, Anong also operates a small business, filling orders for sandwiches for schools.

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“It’s really lovely having them stay with me, they have been so helpful,” Rita said. “Song’s been helping water the garden, and Anong does all the cooking, washing up and cleaning.”

Fried rice and eggs are served every morning.

On Saturday morning, Song and Anong will help stallholders unload meat, bread, vegetables, locally produced honey and eggs. Fresh flowers, micro greens (broccoli, kale, red cabbage, daikon radish, purple radish, mixed radish), seedlings and truffle products will also be for sale.

The volunteers have been cleaning tables and spreading the word about the markets.

“They have been helping me a lot in these last 10 days, putting up signs, posters in shops,” Rita said. “Anong had to practise her English: ‘Good morning. Can we put a poster in your window?’.”

Rita said hosting the volunteers had been a welcome distraction.

“It’s hard to even face the news,” Rita said. “On a personal note, it has been wonderful for me because every day we have to think about our program, we have been so busy. I’m really in the present. Normally you are grinding away with everyday worries and stresses.”

Song and Anong travelled to Taralga to work at the Stonequarry Cemetery Reserve bush regeneration, collecting tree guards and cleaning up around plantings.

They attended the Goulburn Wetlands annual picnic day last Saturday and helped set up a tent and display and met people from the Field Naturalists, Australian Plant Society, The Goulburn Group and Goulburn spider expert Ben Shoard.

three people at cemetery

Anong and Song with Greg West at St Saviour’s Cemetery. Photo: Heather West.

Friends of Goulburn Swamplands president Heather West, who also volunteers for Goulburn Historic Cemeteries, said Anong and Song spent part of the morning moving trailer loads of bark chip to the Mortis St Cemetery for tidying the old graves.

They returned the following day to mow grass at St Saviour’s Cemetery.

“It’s given us a real boost to see the cemetery so neat and tidy again after all the spring growth,” Heather said.

“Song and Anong are such willing workers, with wide smiles no matter what the task. It’s amazing how easily we can use gestures and keywords to ‘talk’ with Song and explain the task. He’s a quick learner, observing and doing things well.

“Anong had never used a lawn mower before, but you would never know. She mowed a lot of spaces between graves effortlessly.”

READ ALSO Students get a taste of what it takes to be a country vet

On Tuesday morning, Anong and Song travelled to Crookwell to plant native trees on farmer Garry Kadwell’s property. Funded by the World Wide Foundation for Nature, the trees are for the Kanangra Boyd National Park to Wyangala – a major landscape corridor.

International Volunteers for Peace, which began in Europe after World War I, believes bringing volunteers together to live and work teaches them collaboration, tolerance and international communication skills. The aim is to create pathways to peace in the hope of avoiding war.

“I went to a project in Italy in 1987 and came across (IVP) by accident,” Rita said. ”For me, it ticked all the boxes, as I was already involved in environmental work. Then I came back and started it in Australia and have been involved for 35 years.”

Goulburn Farmers Market will be held in the Peden Pavilion, at the Goulburn Recreation Ground, Braidwood Road, Goulburn, from 8-11 am on Saturday, 28 October.

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