Planting the seeds of a better future

3945: Generous land donors Geoff and Merilyn Hobbs, RRCF founder Carla Tipping and WftD co-ordinator Dan Hamilton.

Carla Tipping has a vision.

Teeming vegetable gardens and communal kitchens in the middle of the city, in school yards, in aged care facilities and in public housing estates thats her dream for Lismore.

That ambitious concept came one step closer to fruition this week when local couple Geoff and Merilyn Hobbs donated a five-acre market garden on their property at Lindendale to the Rainbow Region Community Farms Association (RRCF).

Its renewed my faith in mankind, Carla said. Theyve done something very special for this community.

Carla says the site, which already includes established garden beds and an orchard, will be used to train Work-for-the-Dole participants in organic gardening and permaculture principles while providing income for future RRCF projects.

She said after months of hard work and bureaucratic red tape, the Hobbs donation was a godsend. The project, which begins on February 26, will be co-ordinated by the Ballina Employment and Training Centre and funded by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR). Any Centrelink clients who have a mutual obligation can inquire at Centrelink to check their eligibility.

While the market garden wont be open to the public, produce will be sold at a roadside stall outside the property on Alphadale Road and at the Car Boot Market.

Carla has also made a submission to Lismore City Council to secure a site near the Lismore CBD to establish a City Farm for the general public.

Carla, from Clovass near Casino, launched RRCF last October as her community project for her Diploma in Permaculture. She had hoped the idea would take root in the community, but was gob-smacked when more than 40 people showed up to the first meeting. Within hours, they had a name, a website, and enough willing hands to start planting the seeds for a better future.

It seems from little things big things really do grow, and she now has a core team of around 20 volunteers working to achieve the vision, and says momentum just keeps building. She has 60 members on the books and hundreds of phone calls already this year from people who want to pitch in.

We really hope Council can see the value of this, because the community certainly does, said Carla. The ABCs Gardening Guru Phil Dudman is right behind the project and Darcy Goodwin from the Five Loaves Mobile Soup Kitchen is really excited because we want to offer his clients the chance to grow their own produce.

Carla is using the Northey Street City Farm in Brisbane as a model, and says a recent visit to the 10-acre garden, which was set up on land donated by Brisbane City Council in 1994, inspired her all over again.

The community garden was full of beautiful food, and there was a kitchen so we picked our lunch, cooked it together and ate together. It was a wonderful sharing experience and I realised thats the sort of society we need to cultivate, Carla said. With the cost of food and fuel increasing, and with global warming and the drought at the forefront of peoples minds, we need to look at more water efficient gardening and reducing our food miles. I believe everyone should learn about where their food comes from and take more responsibility for growing their own food.

Carlas envisages TAFE running workshops and courses from the CBD garden, and believes the project will also provide fruitful social benefits, re-connecting people who feel isolated from their community.

Were all so busy running around these days, and lots of people lack a sense of community and belonging, Carla said. A community garden would bring people together, teach people about nutrition and good gardening, make food cheaper and in the long-term improve peoples health. In the future we also want to create a kitchen from where we can feed the homeless and establish community gardens in schools to tackle childhood obesity.

Anyone interested in finding out more about RRCF or becoming involved can attend the next meeting on Tuesday, February 20, at Lismore TAFE (G Block, ground floor room 1) at 6pm. For information phone Carla on 6663 1332 or visit www.communityfarms.rainbowregion.com.


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