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Growing a better future

Posted on : 11 January 2017

WORDS: Nicola Conville
Article first appeared RAS Times November 2016

Two years ago market gardener, David Ryan, applied for funding to lead a project in his rural community. In 2015 he was awarded an RAS Foundation (RASF) Community Futures Grant and is now seeing his hard work come to fruition.

The RASF Community Futures Grants encourage rural youth leadership by providing financial assistance for community projects. The program has been running for three years, and in that time, 23 grants have been awarded, with a total sum of $510,000 in funds distributed to help community projects come to life. For David, the funding and his project has improved his community.

David has a passion for sustainable living, land regeneration, food production and natural building. He has been involved with the Uralla Community Garden since its inception in 2014 and saw the Grant as an opportunity to take things to the next level.

“We had been seeking grants for the community garden for a while and I felt this was the perfect opportunity,” he says. “I was in the right age bracket, it was a strong, community-based project and a unique idea. I put the effort in and was thrilled when we were told our application was successful.”

David’s vision was to create an environment where young and old alike could enjoy the gardens, learn about sustainable food production and alternative building practices. He proposed to build a new shed and pond, plant fruit trees and build a compressed earth brick machine.

“Community cohesion was a really important outcome for the project too,” he says.

The Uralla Community Garden has been flourishing thanks to the RASF Community Futures Grant. Working bees are carried out regularly to help build and nurture the space. David has built a compressor and although it is still in the prototype stage he says it has helped him and other volunteers to build up their skills, and eventually hopes it will become an asset that can be hired out, generating an income for the garden.

“So far we have built a wall using the machine and now we’re doing a small shed on a property,” he says. “We’ve also been talking to Adam Blakester from Starfish Initiatives, a charity which supports rural and regional sustainability, to see if we can work together.

“Personally, I’ve come from quite a troubled background and doing good in the community has been very beneficial to me,” David says. “But inspiring people from a gardening and building perspective has been a really big thing for me too. It’s the conversations I have with people when I’m working in the garden that make it all worthwhile.”

In 2015 Helen DeCosta and Katie Rowe were also awarded Community Future Grants achieving excellent results for their communities.

Learn more about RASF’s scholarships and grants.