Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ningana Enterprise Farm

There are farms and then, there are farms.  A farm is essentially an agricultural business that trades in products generated from the land.  It operates just like any other business with cash flow, debt, income, customers and stock (live, usually).  However, a farm is more then just a regular town or city based business, it relies not only on borrowing from Mr Bank Manager but borrowing from mother nature as well.  A small but important difference to most other businesses -  imagine the book seller having to build a shop from books, the hairdresser putting hair on instead of taking it off, or the miner making mountains out of mole hills? The farmer is making living produce from life itself.

That is why I like organic farming, because organic farmers borrow less from nature, working in harmony with the soil, the climate, and the microflora.  What is used in producing the crop or fattening stock, is put back into the ground: scraps are recovered, recycled, decomposed and deposited.  Manure is not wasted, everything has a use. The ground is turned over with love and care.  Chickens and small fowl peck away at the ground, pigs play in the mud all adding to the biodiversity.  And of course, the produce is usually of a higher quality, more nutritious and better for you then conventionally grown food.

Ningana Enterprise Farm, in Tharbogang, just outside Griffith is one such farm.  It is 100% organic, using No Added Chemicals, and local expertise to grow a range of fresh fruit and vegetables, from strawberries and zucchinis, right through to apricots, cucumbers and melons.  All on just 41 acres, with 7 workers, 4 pigs and a hatful of hens.

Humans have been cultivating on a small scale for thousands of years - to feed one's families, and to sell locally via the local town market in Timbuktoo or the big smoke in downtown Baghdad.  But farming is not only a source of income, it is also a social enterprise.  A way to help feed ourselves and our families, and sell leftovers to others with the need for food.  Combine the two- farming and social help - and you have more then a business model.

Ningana Enterprise farm takes social enterprise a step further: it provides employment for people with disabilities in the form of good, honest hardwork.  For you see, people with disabilities are just as entitled to employment as able bodied people.  In fact, you could argue that people with disabilities have a far greater right to a fair go - the great maker has dished out a bad hand (a terrible pun!)  - put simply, they deserve it.   Ningana supports people with disabilities, provides employment and training and the opportunity to make a dollar or 2.  Places like this are far far more worthy to our society then the simple big fast buck schemes that dominate modern Australia.

It doesn't happen all by itself though.  Some assistance is required, good people are needed. Organisations and local people need to get behind the project.  Just ask the Manager Jim Warr - " its hard work, but worth it at the end of the day" he says.  You can see what he means - the smiles on the faces of visitors, especially children with disabilities say it all.
However, as the entreprise accountant John Ciccia intones, "the dollars have to stack up.  The farm has to break even".  It is no good having an enterprise that can't pay it's bills.  Ningana is only a fledgling farm, still hitting its straps, small in size, but big on heart.  I suspect great things are going to happen, if not already.

Ningana Entreprise Farm is part of Ningana Enterprise Inc, a not for profit organisation that assists people living with disabilities to live and work in the community.  Their story continues at

Organic strawberry patch yielding the best strawberries outside Wimbledon

they can sniff a meal from 10 miles away
With thanks to Jim Warr for showing me the farm.

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