A bounty of local fresh produce and knowledge shared in Omeo

Community stories: 18 December 2018

Omeo District Health, centred in the remote Victorian Alps, provides primary health care to the communities of Ensay, Swifts Creek, Omeo, Benambra Dinner Plain and surrounding localities. The region’s cloistered location means that both food security and access to local fresh produce can be an issue for some residents and so, as part of the Omeo Region Building Health Food Futures project, Omeo District Health set up the ‘Healthy Harvest’ produce and information exchange.

‘Healthy Harvest’, with the help of a $4,150 Small Grants for Rural Communities grant, would help build the sustainability of the Harvest Exchange meets throughout the year by providing the equipment and resources to display and promote the harvest goods and project materials. It also builds on the strength of the local community who have a lot of knowledge and skills to share when it comes to the growth and establishment of their own gardens and produce.

Portable tables, sandwich board signs, shelter marquees, seed sticks, and ‘Harvest Host’ aprons were some of the items purchased with the grant with 16 events scheduled throughout the year. Harvest Host volunteers and participants from Ensay, Swifts Creek, Omeo and the Benambra communities all benefited from the new resource.

“It is a fabulous way for the members of the community to meet,” said one of the Harvest Exchange Hosts. “It is very social, and as we all like producing things, there are lots of ideas exchanged and information given.”

The Healthy Harvest produce and information exchange resulted in high engagement with a current base of 138 registered participants. A survey administered in June 2018 indicated high satisfaction with the program and overall positive impacts on social connection and mental health, access to fresh produce and variety, information and produce exchange as well as increased motivation for people to grow their own product to eat and share. It also has had a significant impact on people feeling connected to their community.