What is it to know your life’s purpose is to build hope within a community?
Transforming communities where young people thrive is the work of national, faith-based organisation, Fusion.
Susan Rowe, is part of their local team, delivering programs to young people at risk. And because young people need strong, resilient families, Fusion is working with them too.
The centre of activity is a 33 hectare farm in Kingborough. The Rowes are the current managers of the ‘Forest Glen’ farm. If you’ve lived in Hobart more than a couple of decades then you might know it by the name of its benefactor, ‘Griston Farm’. Philanthropist, Basil Griston, founded a farm that can only ever be used for people in need. Griston grew up in poverty in South Hobart, living off salted meat and steeling vegetables. Susan said, “I read that story as a mum and thought I’d never want to be in the position that I couldn’t feed my kids vegetables.”
Fusion decided to use some of the farm to start the program, ‘Growing vegetables, Growing Hope’.
“For a kid who grew up hungry it seems like a fitting use of what used to be Basil’s property.” A self-professed amateur, Susan says she knew nothing much about growing vegetables before she started. What she did know was that there were too many families that didn’t get fresh vegetables because they couldn’t afford it. “I thought, I’m going to start doing this and I’m going to hope that some people who know something about gardening are going to turn up and help, which was what happened.”
Last week, the team threw open Forest Glen for a fundraiser showcasing their food security program.
This Girl threw open #Blissfarm to a few work colleagues, suggesting they come see our veggies and animoolz before heading on to the fundraiser. Since we ran out of time before we got to the goats we decided to leave on the assortment of gumboots and blunnies and head to Forest Glen. Flaps hand in front of face, “Sure it will be fine, we’re going to a farm!”
We were going to a spring garden party. Ostensibly high tea in the country, replete with ladies in afternoon tea dresses and heels, table clothes, serviettes, punch and table service. We chose the back corner and kicked the boots off underneath the table.
The Fusion team did a tremendous job catering for the seventy or so guests in attendance – plate after plate of sponge cake with jam and cream was transported from the kitchen to tables, along with brownies, Afghan biscuits, sausage rolls, mini quiches, lemon tarts, sandwiches, scones and more.
Tip – the origin of the name of the Afghan biscuit is highly contentious. Read more here.
Apart from having a lovely afternoon tea on a beautiful Sunday afternoon we were able to admire the impressive garden that is producing kilos of food for people in need. Plants were also available for sale for a gold coin donation.
Susan told us, “It doesn’t look like a perfect garden. If you were looking for something perfect with no weeds, that’s the Botanical Gardens in the city. We’re productive not pretty.”
Susan and her team of volunteers are now in their fourth season for the garden.
“The first year we grew 127 kilos of tomatoes, beans, pumpkins and other things. The next year we grew 960 kilos and we didn’t have a hothouse at that stage. The pressure was on and last year was a bad summer and nothing flowered and our stats went down to 400 kilos. This year we planted lots of heavy things like beetroot, pumpkins and potatoes to get our stats up again,” she laughed.
In fact, this year they are growing tomatoes, zucchini, beetroot, broad beans, garlic, rockmelons, watermelons, strawberries, rhubarb, cucumbers, lettuce, capsicums, snow peas, potatoes and soon they will also plant out some beans, silverbeet and pumpkins.
They provide mentoring programs with local schools. During the tour of the gardens we got to see the work of the students who built a heat bed during winter. It’s a table with a depth of sand which is kept moist and a heater cable buried in the sand set at about 24C. This gets many varieties of seedlings up and growing early in the hothouse and Susan told us the students enjoyed the challenge of designing the table and seeing it producing.
If you’re fortunate enough to live comfortably and have enough to eat, you’ll be at home most nights, making yourself or your family dinner. What most people don’t see, is how deep the need is.
Susan told us that just in the Kingston area there are four community groups who give fresh food away in various forms each week: Louie’s van; Maranoa Heights Community Centre on Monday and Friday; Kingborough Life Church on Mertonvale Circuit on Monday night; and the Kingborough Community Church on Thursday, the latter alone assists around 80 families each week.
Susan’s commitment to making a contribution and to addressing need in her community is strongly felt, “We can’t produce enough for the need and we feel inadequate,” she said.
Everything that is grown at Forest Glen is given away for free. If residents of their accommodation program are in need they access produce through one of the relief agencies in Kingston. While it might look like one of the growing numbers of the many gardens springing up in local communities to encourage people who are time poor or space limited to grow their own veggies, that’s not what Forest Glen is about either. You can volunteer however and they hold a working bee once a month if you’re interested.
There are plans to expand. “We plan to grow more stuff; it’s (the need) a bottomless pit.”
“I see parents turn up, particularly on a Thursday when I drop off veggies, mums who have nothing and I think if I can use my time to grow a few fresh vegetables it’s not much to ask,” Susan said.