Our Food Jams were introduced to preserve seasonal gluts of food from our region. We invited volunteers to come along every fortnight to share in the work of preserving whilst gaining the skills and knowledge to preserve at home. All volunteers take home a jar or two of the preserved produce and the rest is distributed to the Canteens or our Catering business.
One of our first projects was the development of the Local Produce Guide (LPG). It was created to connect consumers and retailers with local growers directly. With much of what is grown locally being trucked to markets in Melbourne and beyond, and some of it even then travelling all the way back to shops in Castlemaine, the LPG aimed to cut out a few steps in the process of procurement and to reduce the distance our food travels from paddock to plate. The LPG now lives online as part of the Open Food Network platform, and has been re-branded as the Mount Alexander Local Produce Network.
These were days where we invited people from many different parts of our local community, some may be experiencing social isolation or mental health challenges, to come along to a harvest or a pruning event and try it out. At the end of the event we shared a fresh meal made from local produce. These activities are great for people of all walks of life to get involved in and the fun social connections made are often a highlight for our volunteers.
In partnership with the local council, Castlemaine Continuing Education and The Hub Plot, we were involved in the design and development of a community garden on reclaimed carpark land in the centre of Castlemaine. This garden now has a dedicated team of volunteers who get together weekly to grow food and share it with the community.
In order to help provide quality materials locally so that we can grow more produce in our backyards, from time to time we get a large load of quality compost delivered which we sell by the trailer load. This acts as a small fundraiser for the project but also helps further our aim to increase backyard food production in the area.
There is a plethora of interesting and inspiring films relating to issues around global and local food systems. Most years we run a series of films and speakers to inspire juicy conversations and inspiration in our community. We always share a bowl of soup together afterwards to help digest the film and share our thoughts about it.
The Harvest Guide
The Harvest Guide was developed in partnership with PhD student Juliette Anich as a resource that other community groups can use to help start up similar projects. It tells the story of the Harvest Program and how we run it along with relevant ideas and resources. The Harvest Guide is available on request.
We continually respond to requests to give presentations both locally and further afield about different aspects of The Growing Abundance Project. We also welcome visits from groups who want to experience hands on some parts of the day to day running’s of the project.
From time to time the gorgeous Growing Abundance ‘Carmen Miranda’s’ have an outing at a local festival or event. Usually they are laden with baskets of locally harvested backyard fruit to give out to passers by. Their bright colours and big smiles are always a hit!
We welcome groups of students and teachers from local schools to come out on a harvest with our team leaders and learn a little bit about where their food comes from. Occasionally we also give presentations in schools about where food comes from, food waste and the importance of a local food system.