Summer bushfires and COVID-19 have not dampened the enthusiasm of a group of volunteers from SAGE Inc, (Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla) working on the latest SAGE project, Stepping Stone Farm.
SAGE president Mark Barraclough says recent events have given the group an even greater reason to see the Stepping Stone Farm project come to fruition for the community.
“The bushfires highlighted how quickly the supply and distribution of food coming from outside our region can be disrupted by power outages, highway closures, and other issues,” said Mr Barraclough.
“Luckily the Moruya SAGE Farmers Market and e-market, and a few local stores and direct outlets that sell local produce were able to stay open throughout the fires and supply customers without disruption. This meant that our market garden farmers could continue pick and sell their produce and keep their livelihoods and staff.”
Mr Barraclough said that COVOD-19 presents new issues for our community.
“Once again, our small, local food system has supported people wanting to avoid supermarkets and crowds and buy healthy, affordable, fresh produce locally, either at the farmers market or e-market, from smaller outlets or direct from farmers. Buying direct means that your food might only be touched by the farmer or a few people which is quite different from how food is processed in a large corporate food system.”
SAGE’s Stepping Stone Farm project is an incubator program on a working farm west of Moruya. It aims to train aspiring growers to become successful commercial market gardeners. SAGE recently recruited Joyce Wilkie, a farmer and educator with more than 35 years’ experience to lead the hands-on intern training program.
“Advertising for the first four intern positions is underway now with the program expected to kick off in September. The intern project is unique, it will create local jobs, secure the food supply and meet the growing demand for local produce,” said Joyce.
“We believe that sustainable farming enterprises help the community through increased resilience, new jobs, economic growth, and developing farmers who preserve ecological values for the health of the whole region. Existing farmland is used more productively, and regions are better positioned as a place of good life and great food, which are strong drivers for tourism, “says Joyce.
SAGE Inc is a not-for-profit, community based organisation run by volunteers who manage the award-winning SAGE Farmers Market and e-Market in Moruya, support charities with food, run a popular program of education and events and now manage the Stepping Stone Farm intern project.
SAGE Inc recently launched a new fundraising effort for Stepping Stone Farm using a crowdfunding platform at www.chuffed.org/project/stepping-stone-farm to secure additional funds to grow the project.
Above: Mark Barraclough and Joyce Wilke working on plans for the new SAGE Stepping Stone Farm