Imagine a school that can feed its community. A farm built within a school.
Bellarine Secondary College (BSC), Bellarine Community Health (BCH) and Farm My School Ltd. (FMS) founders, Ben Shaw and James McLennan are inviting the community to join them in a ground-breaking event to launch the ‘Farm My School’ project.
“Come along and be a part of the largest and longest no-dig project ever to be undertaken in the universe! We are planning to build a farm in 24 hours. Yes, you heard that right,” enthused Ben Shaw, a skilled permaculturist in the Geelong region.
The no-dig festival is taking place from 9am October 1st to 9am October 2nd at Bellarine Secondary College, Drysdale. Community members are invited to register for a workshop, attend the whole day or the full 24 hour experience. Costa Georgiadis, from Gardening Australia, is also set to make a special guest appearance.
The 24-hour festival will feature coffee and food from local food vendors, local music, and workshops where participants will learn how to build a no-dig market garden.
“A no-dig garden is one you don’t have to dig. Although this event is ground-breaking, we won’t actually be breaking any ground,” says James McLennan, an environmental and sustainability education expert.
“Also known as a lasagne garden, it involves layering organic material to build diversity and soil health. To build our farm we will be using renewable resources which have been generously donated from local businesses, such as newspapers, straw, manure, cardboard, and coffee grounds. This delicious melting mix of goodness results in the perfect growing environment for veggies.”
FMS is a not-for-profit association, established by Ben and James, who are passionate about transforming unused land within schools into regenerative market gardens, providing low-cost food to the community.
“Schools are mostly under-utilised outside of school hours. We want to activate these spaces and transform the school into a vibrant community hub all-year round,” says Ben Shaw.
“We believe schools can help realise the vision for better food security and accessibility for families while also mitigating the impacts of climate change by localising food production and reducing the carbon footprint of the food we eat.”
The FMS model enables partnerships to be forged between schools and regenerative farmers, creating access to land and a gateway to careers in regenerative agriculture.
“By connecting farmers with schools, the program brings local food production back into the heart of our communities.”
The first ever Farm My School project will transform the unused soccer pitch at BSC into a productive 1.5-acre permaculture market garden.
“There are many reasons why the BSC community is the perfect choice for our pilot program. We’re excited about the commercial kitchen adjoining the future farm as well as an established VET Horticulture and Agriculture curriculum, giving students the opportunity to engage with the farm in all areas of their learning. Students will learn to grow, harvest, prepare and cook fresh produce from the farm that is right there on school grounds,” says James McLennan.
The commercially viable market garden will provide regular produce to school families through affordable weekly organic veggie boxes and supply fresh food to the school canteen.
Partners BCH and BSC believe the project will strengthen the local food system and increase access to locally grown healthy and affordable food for families in the community.
“We want to empower local young people to be ecological stewards and change agents in their community,” says BCH Health Planner Fiona Cadorel. “Families should be able to access healthy food that is also affordable, but we know that this is not always easy for the families in our community. We know that 1 in 4 families don’t have enough food on their table each day,” says BCH Health Planner Fiona Cadorel.
“This project will also empower local young people to be ecological stewards and change agents in their community”.
BSC Principal Wayne Johannesen is excited to pilot Australia’s first Farm My School at the Drysdale campus.
“The College recognises the fabulous opportunities that the program will provide. It will offer a hands-on learning experience to actively engage students in a practical way, deepening their awareness of how they can make a very real difference to how we live. Farm My School will add significantly to the diversity of learning at the College, enhancing student engagement and wellbeing while strengthening the College’s connection with its community and that of the Bellarine Peninsula,” he says.
Participants are being asked to pay what they can for a ticket up to the cost of $20, with any proceeds raised contributing to the cost of running the workshops. Children are free.
Visit https://farmmyschool.com/build-a-farm-in-day to book tickets.
Festival-goers are being encouraged to bring a picnic and to be mindful that it is a zero waste event.
The Farm My School pilot has been made possible through the support of the Victorian Government DFFH Engage! Grant.Leave a reply