SAGE COVID recovery in Eurobodalla

COVID Recovery: 11 December 2023

Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla (SAGE) is a not for profit, community based organisation whose mission is to create and support a NSW South Coast sustainable fair food economy and food sovereignty for local communities.

SAGE stall set up at a farmers market.

In 2013 SAGE faced a logistical challenge of effectively connecting consumers to the thriving local market garden and produce businesses. The solution – enable online shopping for the surrounding community who wanted to buy the goods but due to work or family commitments were unable to browse leisurely and shop at the 2pm Tuesday timeslot.

The ANZ grant paid for the website design and build, with a complementary grant from the NSW Government supporting the planning and administration. 

The establishment of this online farmers market in 2015 was the first in Australia. SAGE designed and implemented the initiative with careful consideration of both local shoppers and the stall holders to ensure it added value and was not onerous.

The SAGE Farmers Market has twice won the ABC Delicious! magazine award for Best Farmers Market in Australia and is established as a national benchmark. All produce comes from within a 160 km radius of Moruya.

Following this early innovations success SAGE continued to thrive with operations growth including the SAGE Community Garden and Stepping Stones Training Farm. However the last 3 years have been difficult. Communities on South Coast NSW were significantly impacted by the 2019/20 bushfires and then Covid-19 restrictions limited the physical market, and escalated demand for online services. At the beginning of 2022 the volunteer group were financially depleted and simply exhausted… but not beaten.

In 2022 SAGE was awarded $50,000 via FRRR’s COVID Regional Community Support program, which was funded by the NSW Government. The grant funding provides for a salaried Business Manager for 12 months with the objectives of developing and implementing the SAGE Business Plan aligned to the existing strategic goals of improving organisation capacity with new revenue stream that ensure ongoing financial sustainability and resilience. Speaking with volunteers Stuart Whitelaw and Catherine Reilly recently it was exciting to hear that an appointment has been made and plan development underway. The Stepping Stones Farm operation has been successful in attracting interns to its agriculture training program from as far afield as WA, with great local farmer relationships supporting peppercorn leases on small land plots that enable graduates to stay local and commence their market garden development. Not only the capacity but also the confidence of this passionate volunteer group has been bolstered by the grants recognition of their capability and the value of their work.