An aquaponics gardening project to keep youths engaged and provide fresh food in the Dubbo region is underway.
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Children and young people aged five to 25 involved in the LeaderLife charity now have access to a new aquaponics garden, on a block leased from Dubbo Regional Council.
The project was the brainchild of the Royal Flying Doctors Service, which operates similar programs for disengaged youth in Lightning Ridge, Gulargambone and Menindee, through their GROW program, and was supported by the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation.
The GROW program has been designed to support the health and wellbeing of children and young people who are disengaged or not going to school, through providing meaningful activities and learning sustainability practices.
LeaderLife Founder, Joh Leader, said the aquaponics program would be ongoing and youths would be able to work on it daily.
"It will be a daily story of checking the fish, feeding them, checking the PH, testing the water temperature, planting new produce so there is a succession of produce to pick and eat at our community centre Apollo House and eventually sell as fresh, locally grown with lots of love market boxes to the whole community," Ms Leader told the Daily Liberal.
She said the younger participants had already produced "the most delicious" caesar salad using farm fresh eggs and lettuce from the aquaponics garden.
"We will focus on growing fast growing leafy greens like lettuce and Asian greens as well as herbs initially, and then start trialling other fruits and veggies down the track like tomatoes and corn," Ms Leader said.
Ms Leader added: "They say it takes a village to raise a child and we are very grateful for everyone making a conscious decision to help kids and young people in our community to live their best life possible because no child should be left behind."
Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation Chair, Ross Griffiths, said the project will teach young people important practical skills to support future aquaponic farming in regional areas.
"Aquaponics offer a sustainable and low-cost ecosystem that provides access to fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and crayfish," Mr Griffiths said.
"The waste produced by farmed fish and other aquatic wildlife supplies the nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, in turn purifying the water.
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"This is such a unique and innovative project and the first of its kind to receive funding from the Charitable Foundation.
"The GROW project is just one more way that LeaderLife is engaging young people, giving them a sense of purpose through contribution."
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