Farm It Forward
Growing Local Food and Fostering Community
Farm It Forward ~ Growing Food and Community
Farm It Forward is a social enterprise connecting Blue Mountains landowners and local young people who are passionate about growing food. The project develops skills and creates training and job opportunities, while tackling social isolation and giving meaning to life, issues for young and old, isolated and less mobile people.
How Farm it Forward Works.
In exchange for allowing their land to be used for market gardening, landowners will:
Receive a weekly box of fresh organically grown veggies, grown on their own property or on other land in the project.
Be visited weekly by working groups of young people to establish and maintain organic food production, and enhance cross-generational connections.
Have the opportunity to be a part of a community or organic food growers through social media, gatherings and visitation to the large garden plots operated by Farm it Forward
The regular help groups will allow for new aspiring growers to identify their passion and use the program as a career pathway.
All excess produce will be sold to the local food co-operatives which support the project.
The Benefits for landowners and young participants include
regular and supportive social contact between the young aspiring farmers and participants providing real personal benefits, addressing loneliness and anxiety, add value to the lives of isolated people and give purpose and meaningful employment to the young growers
being a widely recognised form of nature-based therapy that is accessible and immediate, especially for younger and older people, people with a disability and those who may be socially isolated. Research has shown that mental health is a significant issue for these groups and our young growers have obtained Mental Health First Aid training to help with this
re-establishing a sense of purpose and connection amongst young people in the Blue Mountains. The effects of a changing climate through more intense bushfires and drought, has generated much anxiety amongst young people who often feel powerless and search for meaningful employment and activity. Growing food regeneratively is a powerful way in which to do this as it has the added benefits of physiologically improving mental health through contact with the soil and its living organisms
an opportunity to be actively engaged in creating food security and environmental benefits including improving soil water holding capacity, and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere for use in healthy soil. This in turn leads to a great sense of empowerment, confidence and hope for the future
After one year in the program, the young growers will feel confident to start their own farms, and allow new young growers to be trained by Farm it Forward.
The Partners in the project have been brought together by the auspice, Lyttleton Gardens, after many years of active engagement with young people in the Blue Mountains around Lyttleton Stores. Supporters of Farm it Forward include
Permaculture Blue Mountains
Blacktown (and Blue Mountains) Youth College
Blue Mountains Food Cooperative
Mountains Youth Services Team
Blue Mountains City Council
Private landowners with large acreage for the main garden (2+ acres at Hazelbrook)
There are over 25 active environmental sustainability groups in the Blue Mountains but insufficient avenues for work experience and training in this sector. Farm it Forward will help fill this gap.
The Project also draws upon local knowledge and research and responds to issues identified by Blue Mountains Council in its Child and Youth Plan, Ageing Strategy and Disability Inclusion Action Plan. These issues include: young people leaving the Mountains for employment; mental health for older and young people; isolation; and the need for garden maintenance for older people and people with a disability.
Involvement of Young People in Project design
This project has been designed by young people for their community. Together they have devised a holistic decision making context and plan which will allow them to prioritise their decision-making as a group, in line with the core values they have identified for this project, including
careful documentation throughout the duration of the project
Farm It Forward as a Blueprint for restoring soils, creating local employment and growing connected, resilient communities.
There is a growing need for young people to have access to meaningful employment in environmental management/restoration not just in the Blue Mountains but across Australia. There is also a yearning amongst young people for work that involves reconnection to the land and restoration of our ecosystems. Also, career pathways stemming from this program include: organic horticulture; landscape design; social work; mental health outreach; regenerative farming; on-farm consulting; soil health consulting; agro-ecology and teaching. All of these skills are in demand in the Blue Mountains and Greater West regions. Progress reports and data will be available online for other youth groups to use the model in their local area.