We honour and respect the rightful traditional custodians of the land we grow on, the Darug and Gundungurra people.
Farm It Forward (FIF) is a not-for-profit urban farming social enterprise model connecting landowners and local young people who are passionate about growing food.
Operating over the last 4 years in the Blue Mountains of NSW, FIF fosters youth and community mental health, develops skills, training and job opportunities, while tackling social isolation and increasing community wellbeing.
After carefully observing census data and council surveys, FiF founders designed this social enterprise as a means to address several socio-environmental issues at once.
* An increased risk of social isolation in young people, older residents over 60, young families with small children and LGBTIQ+ people
* increased feelings of helplessness and despair in young people (the Blue Mountains face increased disaster risk due to the effects of climate change on the natural environment)
* A difficulty for young people to access land to learn about and practise sustainable and regenerative land management
* Increasing pressure for older residents to leave their homes and go into aged care despite being in good health and wishing to age in place
To grow nutrient dense, accessible, regeneratively grown food for the local community on land privately owned by residents at risk of social isolation, raising awareness on environmentally restorative food growing practices and the mental health benefits of growing a food garden. Social outreach is a big part of what FIF does through weekly community working bees and high school programs. FIF empowers people to create local food systems fostering intergenerational contact, resilience and nurturing our physical and mental health into the future.
How Farm it Forward Works:
In exchange for allowing their land to be used for market gardening, residents:
* Receive their weekly needs in regeneratively grown veggies, grown on their own property or on other land in the project, for free. Are visited weekly by community groups, paid young people and volunteers to establish and maintain regenerative food production, and enhance cross-generational connections.
* Have the opportunity to be a part of a community of organic food growers through social media, gatherings and visitation to the large garden plots operated by Farm it Forward . The regular help groups allow for new aspiring growers to identify their passion and use the program as a career pathway.
All excess produce is sold locally through a farm gate system online and in person and 100 % of the funds go towards employing young people to grow food and facilitate community outreach sessions.
Farm It Forward has provided opportunities for community members to be actively engaged in creating food security and caring for the environment including improving soil water holding capacity, and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere for use in healthy soil. This in turn leads to a great sense of empowerment, confidence and hope for the future.
FiF uses no-till, non-disturbance methods of growing food. Using the Landcare RASH soil assessment process, FiF tracks improvement in soil health and condition each year. All plots were initially assessed to have very low soil health when they were established. The cumulative impact of FIFs growing practices that include no-dig techniques, companion plantings, and using matured compost has seen measurable improvements in the soil health on each site.
Microscope investigations have demonstrated an increase in both the abundance and diversity of soil microbe populations that are critical for natural water and nutrient cycles to function. Field observations have also reported reduced insect and disease pressure on crops. Whilst there are indicators that the soil health and nutrient density of the vegetables grown on each plot is improving, the sites have not yet restored the capacity for ecological resilience providing the opportunity for continued learning and trials.
Perennial native and beneficial non-native flowering plants are planted along the perimeter of each FiF plot, providing shelter, food and habitat for native birds, insects and reptiles.
Farm it Forward is an innovative and leading organisation putting the principles of regenerative agriculture and social enterprise into practice in an urban community. In a few short years, they have achieved financial stability, meaningful social outcomes and are working towards environmental resilience. FIF is providing inspiration as well as being a practical model for others to follow.
They hold regular webinars explaining the process of setting up a Farm It Forward chapter, and have helped several similar initiatives in other areas establish themselves.