THE Lismore Organic Farmers Market is offering a scholarship to a young farmer or farming business to help them convert to certified organic status.
The body governing the market – Tropo, the Tweed Richmond Organic Producers – will contribute about $1500 to an enterprise or a local producer under 40 that will allow them to have their first year of certification free.
During the year, the scholarship winner will spend one day a month on rotation with each permanent certified organic stallholder at the Lismore market.
“This will help them learn more about each farmer’s methods, network with established local farmers, ask questions and have access to wealth of knowledge,” said new Tropo president Sasha Welker. “That way we make sure they don’t fall through the cracks.”
The young farmer will also be asked to commit to selling at the Lismore Organic Market for their scholarship year, which will provide the building blocks for them to network with customers and businesses.
The funds for the scholarship came from a visit to the region by Canadian academic, broadcaster and environmental activist David Suzuki, who spoke at an event organised by Tropo.
Sasha is co-owner of the Green Goddess Farm at Kyogle and is a winner of the Rising Star Young Organic Farmer of the Year Award.
Tropo created the Lismore Organic Market 18 years ago, Sasha said.
Held under cover at the showgrounds every Tuesday morning, it is the longest running organic market in Australia.
The amount of the scholarship will depend on which certifier the winner goes through.
Certification involves soil testing and produce sampling, looking for pesticides and herbicides and any residual contamination, stallholder Carol Boomsma said.
“Obviously the first time there is a lot more things they look into. It can take a couple of years.”
Getting young people involved was a huge concern across all sectors of farming, Sasha said, “and part of our response to that is ‘OK, what are the hurdles?’.”
“We can connect people with land but we can’t sponsor people onto land. Certification is a big hurdle, so we’re saying we want to help people, sponsor them to get into the industry.”
People wishing to apply for the scholarship should email firstname.lastname@example.org with a letter about themselves, their farm or farming desires, and contact details.
LENDING A HAND: Lismore Organic Market stallholders Carol Boomsma and Sasha Welker.