I’VE been watching with interest the progress of a proposed rural land sharing community here in the Hunter Valley. The Shepherds Ground Village and Farm is forging ahead and provides an inspiring model for how communities can live and produce food sustainably. Port Stephens Council has granted development consent and almost half of the 29 memberships have already sold.
This project makes me almost disappointed I already own a rural property. Otherwise I’d be buying a membership. For less than what we paid for our nine-acre (3.64-hectare) powerless property with no home and no water, members get a brand new sustainable home overlooking more than 200acres (81 hectares) of productive farmland and restored bushland.
Members will also have access to their own large garden plot or can be part of the co-operative that will establish a diverse and sustainable biodynamic farm. There’s also a community hall, commercial kitchen, and plans for a bakery, apiary and market garden.
The village lifestyle is one of the main attractions for Lucie Bruvel, one of the key drivers of the project.
‘‘I’ve lived in communities and small villages in Europe and love the sense of connection and co-operation that comes with village life. There’s always someone to share a meal with or mind the children,’’ Lucie said.
There’s a diverse range of people and ages joining as members, ‘‘all with a common willingness to become part of a greater movement towards a simpler more healthy and connected way of life’’, she said.
They already have half-a-dozen families with children and Lucie tells me they are considering getting a community bus to transport the kids to nearby schools.
One of the most exciting aspects of the project is that it will facilitate the restoration and sustainable farming of a heavily grazed and degraded piece of land that would otherwise be beyond the financial reach of most farmers. Without the Shepherds Ground project, the property would most likely be bought by a wealthy tree-changer and become a picturesque weekender.
The 29 village sites help to fund the purchase of the farmland so that it can grow food and support the dreams of aspiring young farmers.
Being able to farm, without taking on a huge financial burden that forces unsustainable farming practices is what attracted biodynamic enthusiast Marco Forman to the project. He is looking forward to being part of the team that establishes a sustainable mixed farm. ‘‘There’s enough space for multiple small farming enterprises that can grow food, not only for the village, but the broader community as well,’’ Marco said.
I love that the Shepherds Ground team are generously allowing everyone to be involved in this exciting project.
We can all help this project succeed. I’ve signed up as a Friend of Shepherds Ground for only $20 a year and have also donated to their current crowd-funding campaign.
The campaign closes at the end of February and is the final push to raise all funds to buy the land and make this dream a reality.
The Edwards Bar in Newcastle is hosting a get-together on February 21 to help raise funds for the current campaign.
It will provide an opportunity to find out more about the project and meet like-minded people. Anyone is welcome to come along to 148 Parry Street, Newcastle West, in the evening.
For more information and to contribute to the funding campaign visit shepherdsground.com.au.