In September 1978 the Freemasons generously provided financial sponsorship for a pilot gardening program for SYC to upskill 13 unemployed young people and enhance their employment opportunities.

A four acre site was chosen at the Magill Home for the Aged, due to its location and accessibility for the young people. The group learnt the practical aspects of growing vegetables, planning a garden layout, sowing seeds, raising seedlings, companion planting, controlling pests and disease and general care such as weeding and watering. They had access to their own garden site, skilled supervision, equipment and resources to support their learning.

The young participants would go on excursions and welcome guest speakers to learn other aspects of horticulture including good and bad bugs and insects, watering systems, soil analyses, companion planting, budding and pruning. They also had opportunities to learn about bee keeping, vineyard management, goat keeping and more.

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A few months into the program a field day was organised to showcase the young people’s progress to the Freemasons and their friends. The young people cooked afternoon tea with their own produce and hosted a stall selling an array of their fruits and vegetables. With the proceeds from the day they decided to use it to experiment with other crafts including carpentry, leatherwork, pottery and weaving.

During the project three of the young people gained employment. All eight who completed the program were offered permanent work immediately and had ambitions to use their new skills to one day purchase and manage their own commercial garden.

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