Yarra Valley ECOSS wins sustainability awards

Yarra Valley ECOSS members Chelsea McNab, Karina Doughty, Joe Butler, Bernie Lobert, Ric Butler, Peter Preuss and Mayor Jim Child celebrating the sustainability awards. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

By Renee Wood

Wesburn’s Yarra Valley ECOSS has been named the Community Champion in both Social and Economic Justice and Sustainable places at the Premier’s Sustainability Awards.

Coordinator Chelsea McNab said it’s a great achievement for the a predominately volunteer run community farm and hub to achieve.

“We’ve worked really, really hard to try and develop all of these things and now we’re at a level where we can show the world. I think it’s our time now that we are our vision – it’s come to fruition,” Ms McNab said.

The hub was recognised for it’s sustainable practices within organic and bio-dynamic food production, healthy eating promotion, inclusivity, cultural awareness and supporting ethical businesses and not for profits.

ECOSS delivers several projects which allow people of all abilities and diverse backgrounds to participate, teaching volunteers new skills and sharing sustainable ethos with visitors.

“Merely by creating something, even if one person attends and gets a spark of inspiration, then there’s a chance for exponential growth and change in that area, and that person might share that with ten others.”

The hub was first known as the Upper Yarra Community Environment Park when it opened 15 years ago on a 7.4 hectare former poultry farm in Wesburn.

Ms McNabb said after remediation and changes to the land, the hub has grown significantly in the last seven years.

Food produced on site also supports Koha Cafe and the Tuckerbox project for local families.

Waste reduction, healthy eating, organic and bio-dynamic food are all key to the production operations.

“The reach that we were able to get into the community, because of the programs we developed was what was also recognised [by the judges], that it’s not just what’s happening on site, but it’s also showcasing that people with disabilities can give a lot to the community and the broader community and have great skills. So we’re pretty proud of that.”

The Valley Market which supported local producers during the pandemic’s lockdowns was also recognised as a key asset of the hub’s success.

“The judges feeback acknowledged that we have so much space to grow and to continue. So we’re really excited that it’s not the end point in any way.”

ECOSS has just a few part time staff and everyone else who tends to the site and who are part of the programs are volunteers.

“We are doing it on a shoestring and it just shows that sustainability is achievable.

“We would love to welcome more volunteers in the program. We think it’s really valuable and anyone, any volunteer can come in, with or without a disability can come and join in.”