SAGE’s Intern Program: it matters to you
Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla (SAGE) is a local community organisation that is committed to sustainable food that is grown without resorting to the artificial addition of fertilisers and pesticides. The Beagle has been following what Kyle Levier of Fulcrum Farm has been growing month by month. Kyle is also a critical part of one of SAGE’s key programs. This program is designed to “grow the grower”. We cannot achieve a goal of sustainable food without growers who are committed to growing it and that have the skills to get the most out of their land. Part of the “grow the grower” program is about finding and mentoring market garden interns. Leanne Nicolle is the fifth SAGE intern and she is being mentored by Kyle (who was an intern before her). This program is about more than developing growers: there is an economic and job creation angle to all this. Leanne and her four predecessors all sell their produce at Tuesday’s weekly Farmers Market. A study into the economic value of the Farmers Market found that it contributed well over a million dollars a year to the local economy.
So Leanne is important to SAGE and she’s important to you because she’s part of the production of good food. In an article two weeks ago we noted that the work of a SAGE intern is never done. At that time Leanne was covering her garden beds with tarpaulin as part of the process to get them ready for planting. She has not been idle since then. Last time we left her she had carefully wrapped her garden beds in tarpaulin that would cause the plants that make up her green manure to decompose.
Leanne showed me some of the plants that make up the green manure. They are a mix of plants that is determined by the farmer or gardener depending upon the condition of the soil. Legumes provide nitrogen, oats provide bulk. Leanne pulled up a legume and showed me the little nodules on the roots that contain nitrogen. Using plants like this to revive the soil saves money; many farmers buy nitrogen, at some cost, to fertilise their soil. And that cost adds to the price you pay. More than that, the artificial addition of elements is not sustainable. SAGE’s philosophy is for sustainable food and sustainable methods to grow that food.
Adding nitrogen the natural way: that’s a little bag of nitrogen on the tip of Leanne’s finger
Gardening is hard work, though of course it is rewarding. But it does involve physical effort. Leanne introduced me to the broadfork and then encouraged me to use it to dig over some of the bed that she has been preparing. A broadfork is basically two forks welded side by side. It’s heavy. Using one is hard work but it does have the benefit of being in the open air.
Kyle is travelling north this weekend to collect the seedlings that Leanne will be growing. She’ll depend on these seeds for income and the first plants - the silverbeet and lettuce - should be ready for market within two months. For more information about SAGE visit sageproject.org.au and to find out about the Farmers’ Market visit sagefarmersmarket.org.au.