July, 2015

An insatiable love of gardening, a concern about food miles and a passion for local: just some of the drivers behind a food hub founded in Korumburra. WOFWG members learned so much from their July visit to this community enterprise.

Grow Lightly Connect is a not-for-profit company benefitting the local community. It was established through the vision and skills of Gil and Meredith Freeman, formerly teachers from Melbourne. Their retirement to the country led to their becoming leaders in the practical application of the principles of organic horticulture and the reduction of food miles. They believe in the importance of fresh, seasonal food being available locally, with minimal environmental costs to produce. They also value assisting the local economy.

The South Gippsland Shire has given support with the lease of a central building at a reasonable rental. Philanthropic foundations have helped fund amenities to improve the centre. Now this is a hub for the collection, packaging and distribution of excess fruit and vegetables grown in the area. Grow Lightly is always on the lookout for growers in southern Gippsland who will be able to supply foods. To date there are about fifty such growers on the books. All food donated or sourced wholesale is grown within 80 km from Korumburra.

There is a simple motto of Clean, Fresh, Local. Further, hub members share a view that organically produced food should not be elitist and thus should be as affordable as possible.

For a fixed price per bag, purchasers receive a seasonal mix of food items, sourced from local organic growers and small scale producers. Up to forty bags per week are packed by volunteers. Thereafter there is a clever network to ensure delivery of the bags at maximum freshness.

Apart from the vegie bags and on site sale of seasonal produce the hub is expanding into workshops, newsletters and an effective website. The Freeman’s original vision now includes ideas for more innovations.

Some WOF members felt that the Grow Lightly food hub is a model which other Gippsland communities could follow.