‘Crops for Community’ is educating and empowering volunteers of all abilities to create food crops to be available at our weekly produce market.
This initiative marries the ECOSS Community Garden and all abilities program with the weekly Market, enabling opportunities for connection, and greater food security in the Yarra Valley.
Social and community benefits
Linking Crops for Community with The Produce Market is an important program designed to support the Upper Yarra Community as they are Socially and Economically disadvantaged, and already have a high number of unemployed, and people living with disabilities and members of community.
We are looking how to best localise our economy and provide food security to the local community. We are very fortunate in the Yarra Valley to have an abundance of food producers and a very strong social fabric. The future is very uncertain right now but we do know that now and into the future people need food security and the recent pandemic shows just how sensitive our current economic system is.
By creating a Local Produce Market and through the Community Garden we:
- Reduce food waste
- Support local small businesses
- Provide food security
- Reduce Carbon emissions and Reduce food miles
- Support & empower People with a disability
- Promote eating healthy & fresh locally grown food.
- Donate organic produce to local food relief groups
The ECOSS Produce Market continues post Covid, enabling our local food producers to be able to sell directly to the public. This will enable the broader community to purchase food through-out the year in a safe open air environment.
This market assists to build resilience through supporting local businesses, stimulate spending within the local community & region, improve economic prosperity whilst encouraging healthy eating with access to local fruit and vegetables.
The program aims to foster connections for volunteers in the community, including those with disabilities, to contribute to providing an essential service for the community. Also creating sustainable social enterprise, that offers opportunity for skill building, friendships, connections and economic sustainability, after initial funding has ceased.
Providing opportunity to be involved in a volunteer program that grows crops from seed to harvest to donate to local food relief groups breaks down exclusion and equality barriers some people with disability can face. Improving their sense of dignity. This project reinforces inclusivity that people of all abilities are capable of contributing to the community and work as part of a successful social enterprise that deals directly to their local community.
Skill Development Benefits
The 30 current All Ability volunteers at ECOSS will be involved in the project from propagation through to sales. Educating and increasing skills enabling further readiness into the workforce. Encouraging Self Determination and empowering them to become more independent and connected members of the community.
The project provides an avenue for approx 20 small businesses to access and sell to the local community, supporting and promoting local food production and business, and Development of a regional food hub. The flow on effects of supporting local business will be in employment of more members of our community, promoting development of skills in various food production industries such as Farming, Beekeeping, Bread Making, Chocolate Making, Viticulture and more.
Including people living with disabilities in an essential service provision- we can provide regular food relief boxes to 2 local Food Relief organisations- Koha Cafe and Oonah Indigenous Services, Connecting these organisations with a common value.Through Promoting the skills and knowledge of people with disabilities, we create opportunities for exposure and connections for community building. Increasing awareness that people with disabilities can contribute to the workforce, increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Through provision of the market we are connecting community members, with the outcome of less loneliness and mental health issues associated.Providing educational opportunities for the community through online education content, building more resilience, increasing incidence of healthy eating and exercise with community that engage with the program.
Communication and social skills – Further development of communication and social skills from being involved in a collective community project. Also through selling produce at the market.
Fitness – Gardening is a great physical activity building on and developing fitness levels.
Developing Social Enterprise skills in our volunteers of all abilities. Including the opportunity to handle money on the enterprise Market stall at the Produce Market and Farm Gate. Pricing of Products, Awareness of the costs associated with running an enterprise, Learning new ways to interact with the public.
Horticultural skills – Seed Propagation, Food Growing, Garden Maintenance, Composting/Soil production, Plant Identification, Pruning, Harvesting, Food Preparation, Healthy Living, Responding to Environmental Factors, Pest plant and animal management. Learning to divide the produce for our beneficiaries and enterprise.
Food Preparation and Cooking Skills – Including preserving the harvested goods, learning about food preparation and hygienic practices, bottling, freezing food, serving food at events, meal planning.
Certificates are issued upon specific skill development
The Crops for Community Program is implemented in Collaboration with the following Disability Support Organisations; Melba Support services, Uniting VT, Interchange Outer East
The Crops for Community Program will actively seek to involve community in codesign/decision making.
The Food Relief donations will be coordinated in collaboration with OONAH Indigenous Services and Koha Community Cafe
ECOSS would like to thank the following organisations for supporting this important project.