14 December 2021

Young EcoCrews step up to secure Eurobodalla's food supply

| Katrina Condie
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Fiona Phillips at the launch of the EcoCrews program

Federal Member for Gilmore Fiona Phillips at the launch of the EcoCrews program. Photo: Fiona Phillips MP.

A new training program launched in Batemans Bay will help grow Eurobodalla’s local food supply and provide jobs for young people.

The Eurobodalla EcoCrews program, funded by the NSW Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund, provides paid internships 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.

The Campbell Page EcoCrews social enterprise is being delivered in partnership with SAGE’s Stepping Stone Farm, a training farm at Kiora near Moruya.

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.”

READ ALSO Millions of dollars given to help Bega Valley and Eurobodalla with bushfire clean-up

Stepping Stone Farm manager and educator Joyce Wilkie joined the team the following year and the first interns started in October 2020.

Ms Wilkie says the EcoCrew program will 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,” she said.

Campbell Page CEO Natalie Turmine is equally excited about the opportunities the program brings.

She says the partnership will create real prospects and sustainable jobs for locals.

SAGE Stepping Stone Farm manager Joyce Wilkie 2021 interns, Shani Keane and Josh Gowers.

SAGE Stepping Stone Farm manager Joyce Wilkie with 2021 interns, Shani Keane and Josh Gowers. Photo: SAGE NSW Inc.

“We’re not just growing food, but futures too,” Ms Turmine added.

“They’re getting fantastic hands-on experience and skills working on the farm while getting paid.”

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, as well as 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,” Ms Wilkie added.

Stepping Stone Farm’s EcoCrews projects was supported by a $2,071,465 grant from the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund, co-funded by the federal and NSW governments.

In collaboration with the Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Shire Councils, Campbell Page is rolling out six EcoCrews on the South Coast with participants undergoing six months of paid training and employment to deliver vital land-based works.

EcoCrew members will undertake accredited units in Conservation and Land Management, complemented by mentoring and supervision, and will also complete bushfire recovery work through environmental projects.

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