LETTUCES and strawberries are leading the way out of addiction and other life problems for a big group of young men at Yarramundi.
The installation this month of a vertical-growing greenhouse at ONE80TC, a rehabilitation facility, will allow 15 young men to learn the skills to get a basic TAFE certificate in horticulture.
ONE80TC, a not-for-profit Christian organisation that helps young men get back on the right track, has teamed up with social enterprise organisation, Food Ladder, which has brought in a high-tech greenhouse capable of growing 2500 lettuces at once.
Food Ladder will be reimbursed for the cost of the greenhouse by proceeds from the produce, then subsequent earnings will go to ONE80TC to continue funding the program. Food Ladder plans to install another greenhouse 10 times the size at the facility soon, paid for partly by community grants.
When the News visited on Monday last week, several men were planting their first crop of minuet lettuces, rocket and coriander, with strawberries up next when it’s colder.
A Sydney catering company has already signed on to buy the harvest, though it’s hoped to sell into local growers’ markets too.
Food Ladder director Kelly McJannett said learning a skill gave the men direction.
‘‘Some people at rock bottom have a sense of hopelessness and this gives them something pragmatic to remedy that,’’ she said. ‘‘We hope we might be able to employ some of them too, to set up more social enterprises in other needy communities.’’
Food Ladder is an initiative of parent organisation, Fair Business, which has created more than 350 jobs for disadvantaged people around Australia in the last five years.
Two of the men planting out the seedlings last week were very positive about the opportunity.
‘‘Working alongside each other is great, guys open up and start sharing — it’s brought us closer together,’’ Harley said, whereas Justin said ‘‘actually completing something gives you a sense of hope at recovery’’.
‘‘You realise life is worth it, half of us guys hadn’t completed nothing in our whole lives, until now,’’ he said. ‘‘Food ladder has reached out to us and said, we are going to set this up and we want you to get your certification. It just makes you feel loved. Like there is a life afterwards.’’
The launch was also attended by Food Ladder director Alex Shead and ONE80TC CEO Mark Hill, as well as Castle Hill MP Dominic Perrottet, who praised the project.
‘‘It’s great to see One80tc and Food Ladder coming together to instil young men with horticulture skills to set them in good stead for prolonged sobriety and longer term employment,’’ Mr Perrottet said.