Ch ch ch ch changes…

ten years of PttP

Back in the summer of 2009 I had a glut of tomatoes in my backyard garden, couldn’t give them away because it seemed like everyone I knew also had a tomato abundance so I pondered and processed and Produce to the People Tasmania was born.

What began as a way for backyard excess to be shared locally has grown over the years and transitioned so many times it makes my head spin.

I had no real plan, had never worked in community services and was equal parts naive and determined.

Note to self : have a plan

So, for a while I just organised for excess backyard grown produce to be left at local cafes or CommBank branches and made sure it got to whomever the local community organisation was who already worked with people who might benefit from some fresh produce in their diet. Then I was made aware of the bulk produce that went to waste – the too big carrots, the not quite green enough broccoli, the too creamy in colour cauliflowers and thought well, we can do something with that!  And then began the gathering of half tonne crates of produce, the deliveries to organisations and Primary Schools.  A short chain distribution network that meant we only gave away what we gathered in one day so there was no need for storage facilities which is where things start to get $$$. I had a small team of volunteers who helped with deliveries – one of whom still gathers and gives (Raylene you legend!!)

I also began a series of gardening programs in Primary Schools – ably assisted by our Snack Garden Guru – who taught kids how to grow their own veggies, compost and generally be creative in the veggie patch.

Note to self: as soon as you get one more person involved things begin to get complicated

Funded by a series of grants that became harder and harder to get as food projects suddenly became sexy and every person and their dog it seemed wanted to start their own version of what we were already doing.

Note to self : the community services space is some of the most competitive, take no prisoners, we will duplicate your service because we have more resources to write grant applications space I have ever worked in. Be careful who you “work” with. To be honest, I was really only screwed over by one organisation but it did make me learn to trust my gut and the PttP ethos of trust relationships has really worked well for the most part.

This went on for a number of years and my naiveté around – well we have such a successful program doing such good in the community, of course we will continue to be funded – was challenged pretty much every time there was an election, and my wordy we have A LOT of elections.

Note to self: don’t give up your day job

There are so many flaws in the way community programs are funded and I am sure there is no one right way to do it but my gosh there are better ways and there seriously needs to be bi/tri/partisan agreements as to how changes can be made for the good of the most vulnerable in our community. Preferably local solutions not held to ransom by bureaucrats who don’t live outside of cities.

As time passed the lugging of bulk produce started to lose its allure.  People wanted more – different varieties, more deliveries, less deliveries and I decided to take up the offer of reinvigorating  The Farm at Burnie High on the then Principal’s second request.  Luckily for me I had the most amazing farm manager Kim by my side and we managed to do some amazing things. Once again though changes in government meant changes to funding which meant one minute staff, next minute no staff. Not a sustainable way for any business, not for profit or not to thrive.

Moving to The Farm also meant I could develop a place, a home where we could not only offer gathered produce but also grow our own.  The food hub opened up with its “ask no questions” policy and quickly became a haven for our community to access produce to feed themselves and their families with no judgement.

Note to all: the only people who have ever questioned whether we are taken advantage of have never had to access food relief.

There has been so much good – the wonderful volunteers who give their time without question and volunteer in the true sense of the word.  The students and staff of Burnie High who LOVE The Farm and what we have made it into.  The School of Special Education students and staff who I think have been just about the best thing ever. The many producers big and small who give graciously. The staff who have come and gone.  Our Patrons. The amazing people we have collaborated with on events. The Board members who have come and gone and persist. The people who come to nurture clients, themselves and families fresh, healthy food. Each and every seed with its potential to grow into something

The not so good – the constant struggle for funding, the constant lobbying – politicians here one day, gone the next, start again, sigh.  The minority of volunteers who make trouble (a real nightmare). The new reliance on “social enterprise” being seen as some kind of win all model that is being embraced by all sides of government.  It is not.  You can not expect underfunded organisations to take on developing and then the running of a micro or small business that is not supported and potentially in competition with the private sector to become a source of financial independence. Likewise, you should not expect organisations to manage teams of volunteers – who all come with their special kind of circumstances – without support. It is overwhelming and does not make for healthy workplaces.

Note to self: remember to have a life outside of PttP

Whilst I do not believe I have come anywhere near to fulfilling Produce to the People’s potential, I reckon we have kicked a hell of a lot of goals.

I hope Produce to the People will continue to grow, gather and give. The reality is that each year we have more people accessing fresh, nutritious food via our food hub, the service providers we work with, and the elders we delivers produce boxes to each week. Whilst pensions leave people living below the poverty line, with women becoming the highest rising cohort facing homelessness and many more students living outside of home there will be a need for assistance.

Note to all : our service is accessed around 2000 times each month

I leave my hands on role with PttP in my tenth year with a blossoming social enterprise arm – our awesome micro green and edible flower venture – the next three years funding in place and another Federal election around the corner where hopefully whomever becomes in charge of the next Australian Government will consider funding local programs doing exceptional work. I am thrilled that the Tasmanian Government are again funding School Farms and that Burnie High will have a two day equivalent farm teacher next year.

There is no one person replacing me. We are going to see how/if it works having two part time people – Michelle looking after food hub operations and Leigh looking after the microgreens.  Burnie High now having a farm teacher will take over the gardens – they will still grow for the food hub but the reality is we have not been funded to look after the gardens for a long time now and gardens need resources and someone to lead.  We will re-assess in six months. I am hopeful the transition from me being hands on will be drama free and enable PttP to grow in possibly different but equally awesome ways. I will remain on the Board in the short term to assist the transition and look after a few things I never had the time to pour any real energy into.

Personally – well I am taking a little break and will begin a new role with Many Rivers, a not-for-profit organisation that supports aspiring business owners with microenterprise development support and access to finance in order to see the potential of people and communities realised in mid January. This is a Tasmania wide role so no doubt you will see me around!

What a blessing it has been.

For now, goodbye

Penelope | Founder of Produce to the People Tasmania/Inc

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Busy busy in the heart of Winter

July 2018 on The Farm

While much of the country is experiencing drought, we on the NW Coast of Tasmania are experiencing ALL the rain.  Muddy boots, muddy eggs, muddy chooks, muddy roads, muddy container toilet instillation!

Our fresh food hub/emergency food relief/fresh food lifeline/call it what you like is open two days each week. Produce was accessed from us 1627 times in July.  That’s 400+ tummies with fresh, locally grown produce each week. We are incredibly proud of the service we provide and are privileged to assist our community. A huge shout out to our volunteers who grow, gather and give to help make this happen.

Micro green central aka our hothouse has ramped up production as we prepare for the opening of our Patron Ben Milbourne’s much anticipated restaurant Charlotte Jack and we are proud to supply local eateries Verona, Palate, Delish + Illume as well.  Remember to support your local because that way you are supporting local producers as well!  If you would like to purchase our micros get in touch and we will bring you some samples. You won’t be disappointed as our feedback to date is 100% satisfaction! The income we earn from our micro green social enterprise goes towards the running of our farm and our elder produce box home delivery service.

We have also started to sow our spring crops in the hothouse – it is a warm and cosy hive of activity at the moment!

Teaser: Watch this space for a couple of announcements. A grand opening and an event you won’t want to miss…

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What ever have we been doing?

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Hi folks,

What a marvellous few months we have had on The Farm.  Here’s a little of what we have been up to:

In the first five months of 2018 there have been 7481 fresh food access touchpoints.  This is a combination of people who visit us face to face, those who access food via one of our support agencies (eg: mission, rural health, TAC) and those that receive a home delivery.

Some of the PttP volunteer team

Our team of up to 30 volunteers have contributed approximately 200 hours per week of time – we truly could not do what we do without them. This includes our farm and food hub vols, produce gatherers and board members.  If we use the Volunteering Tasmania value of volunteering calculator that adds up to a whopping $200,000 worth of value to our community over five months! If you would like to become a PttP Volunteer family member you should come along to one of our volunteer orientation hours held on the second Tuesday of each month at 11am.

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If you attend the Burnie Farmers Market you may have seen us there.  As part of our drive to become financially sustainable, and also spread the word about what we do, we load up the van each fortnight with produce grown in our market garden and sell, sell sell!!  We also have a range of microgreens under production in our hothouse – these delicious greens not only add vibrancy to your plate but pack a punch in nutritional value and heightened taste. If you think your local restaurant or café might like our produce please let them know to come visit us! Remember supporting local businesses and eating locally grown produce is great for your health, and the health of your community.

 Pea tendrils - part of the PttP micro green range

This year Burnie High School are offering Agriculture as a curriculum elective so we are seeing a whole new team of potential farmers on The Farm each week.  They are doing some weird and wonderful things with compost, chook and alpaca poo and learning how to prep and maintain their very own veggie beds as well as a lot of classroom based investigations.

IMG_1467We also continue to welcome our friends from the School of Special Education, Burnie who are now also holding their very own farmers market with produce they help to grow on our farm! When possible their market is held for staff and parents at their school.

Tasmanian Liberals + PttP Board Members

We were very grateful to the Tasmanian Liberals committing to increase our funding for the next term of government. This gives us a little bit of breathing space ie: means we don’t have to close our gates! And can concentrate a little more on the day to day operations of the organisation.. With a by-election coming up and a Federal election due in the next few months we would love to see the same financial commitment from the Federal/Australian Government as we currently receive NO support from them. What do you think?  Do you think organisations such as ours should receive sustained support from the Australian Government??  You might like to mention it to the candidates as they pound the pavements looking for support.

Speaking of money……did you know your donation to us is tax deductible?  You can make a one off or ongoing contribution by heading to our Give Now page.

give now link

We will be increasing our hours of operation in July and have a couple of events coming up soon so watch this space. Also,  a very exciting announcement about a new PttP Patron.  Gosh its terribly difficult to not spill the beans right now…..but we are going to make you wait.

Happy winter!

With love,

Penelope + the PttP Team

 

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