Brae Farmer and Farm My School

Head farmer from the award-winning Brae restaurant in Birregurra, Nina Breidahl has been appointed as the new regenerative farmer for the Farm My School pilot project on the Bellarine Peninsula.

Farm My School is a not-for-profit association, working to transform unused land within schools, into regenerative market gardens providing food to the local community.

Breidahl, has spent the past five years at Brae, and says she’s excited to apply her knowledge to a community focussed project that’s on a much bigger scale.

“This is such an exciting project that so many people are emotionally invested in. We’ve got so many volunteers coming in and the school is so behind it,” she says. “It’s such a different context and purpose to a restaurant like Brae, but I want to remain true to who I am as a farmer and that is someone who respects the environment and grows beautiful organic food at hopefully an accessible price point for the local community.”

The Farm My School concept has been developed by founders James McLennan and Ben Shaw and brought to life through a partnership with Bellarine Community Health and Bellarine Secondary College.

The model enables partnerships to be forged between schools and regenerative farmers, creating access to land and a gateway to careers in regenerative agriculture.

A disused soccer field at Bellarine Secondary College is being turned into a commercially viable market garden, providing produce to school families through the provision of weekly veggie boxes and supplying food to the school canteen.

“Communities are the key to localising food in an equitable way and schools provide a unique opportunity to engage children, families and communities in promoting healthy food systems,” says James McLennan.

“We’re thrilled to have Nina join our team to help us continue to develop urban farming that connects farmers with schools and brings local food production back into the heart of our communities.”

The transition from farming for a top-class restaurant to a community-based project is a challenge that Nina Breidahl is excited to accept.

“I really want to build a well-functioning farm that has well run systems, where people can come in and volunteer and know what’s expected of them, and where have a great relationship with the students and that they’re getting something out of it, we’re getting something out of it, people get great food and get to put their hands in the ground – which I think is achievable.”

The Bellarine Secondary College farm is already well planted, but there is something missing according to the new head farmer.

“I’m obsessed with radicchio, it’s my favourite vegetable and it’s so under-rated, so I can’t wait to plant some of that.”

The recruitment process to find the new regenerative farmer for Farm My School was an in-kind service provided by Envisage HR solutions which was overseen by Senior HR Consultant, Jacqui Edge. Jacqui was profound in her commitment in supporting the project which was greatly appreciated.

The Farm My School pilot has been made possible through the support of the Victorian Government DFFH Engage! Grant.

 The ‘Farm My School’ philosophy

The rapid globalisation of food systems has disconnected people from understanding how food is grown and has led to an age of food insecurity; the consumption of unhealthy, processed foods; and an unsustainable food cycle.  This has detrimental impacts on health, culture, community, and the environment.

There is a growing recognition of the need to reorient food systems so that they address food insecurity and environmental degradation. Communities are the key to localising food in an equitable way. Schools provide a unique opportunity to engage children, families, and communities in promoting healthy food systems.

Farm My School is working to mitigate climate change while forming partnerships with teachers, students, farmers, local businesses, and communities to create thriving neighbourhood hubs for learning, sharing, and connecting. Our vision is to empower students to embrace healthier lives and become future environmental stewards.

You can learn more about Farm My School here.

You learn more about the work being done by the BCH Healthy & Connected Communities team who are supporting Farm My School here.

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