Disadvantaged youths in Dubbo have been given a new zest and chance for meaningful employment under a new program.
The NSW government has announced $50,000 for Leaderlife to start its Soil2Soul project.
Founder of LeaderLife at Apollo House Joh Leader said the Soil2Soul idea started around a campfire.
"My friends own a lime farm and he's working at the mines she's an amazing midwife. I said 'what are you doing with all these limes?' and she said 'well, we can't do anything we don't have time'. I said 'well, I've got time, we've got kids who need jobs'," Ms Leader said.
ALSO MAKING NEWS:
They negotiated a profit share lease on the six acre, 3000 tree farm and planning started for LeaderLife.
Ms Leader said she had been working with youths around education, but the next step was to find them "meaningful work".
"Some of them have been in mainstream employment for the last few years and jeez it's tough work keeping them there. Employers don't get the complexities of trauma and disadvantage and what that means for young people and how to manage it. But we've got some of the best youth workers put on this ground," she said.
At least 20 young people will be involved in the program, which will not only provide them with work but teach them qualifications.
"They're so excited. They're excited about the fact that they know they can trust their employer, that we care about them and will help them through all the hard stuff," Ms Leader said.
"One kid said to me 'if we're going to keep kids out of jail and off the streets we need to get meaningful jobs."
The $50,000 will get the program off the ground, but Ms Leader said another $100,000 was needed to see them through their first harvest in autumn.
Within a year, the goal is to make the lime farm - which is the oldest in Australia - self-sustainable.
The limes will be sold by the youths at farmers' markets and in supermarkets. Plus, LeaderLife has already worked out a great lime cordial recipe and one teenager mentioned selling wood chips from the trees that had to be cut down for people to use in smokers.
"We've based our figures on the current drought conditions and the production that there is on the trees at the moment, so after 12 months we should be self perpetuating," Ms Leader said.
Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders said Soil2Soul was a social enterprise model that aimed to fill the employability gap. He said he looked forward to seeing the results of their work come to life.
The project is expected to start in 2020.