FOR years, people have associated PepperGreen Farm with employment opportunities.
But a recent $500,000 redevelopment aims to entice tourists and community members through the gates, and further promote inclusion.
Community leaders gathered at the site in North Bendigo tonight to celebrate the official launch of PepperGreen Farm.
From humble beginnings, the social enterprise has grown to include a farm kitchen and retail space, arts studios and an exhibition area, a quirky take on a dining space, and a ‘village green’.
But this evening’s celebration was about more than the re-purposed shipping containers and restaurant tram.
It was about the value Access Australia Group, the owner of PepperGreen Farm, hoped the project would add to the community.
“We’re trying to bring the community in,” Dr Michael Langdon, the group’s chief executive, said.
He envisaged the site would become a tourist and employment precinct.
With the sightseeing tram stopping at the nearby Joss House, Dr Langdon was hopeful visitors would find their way to PepperGreen Farm.
“We’ve developed a number of experiences for tourists,” he said.
They included the art studios and gallery, the farm gardens, and the kitchen.
PepperGreen Farm will also host a weekly community market from 10am – 2pm on Saturdays.
Dr Langdon expected the market would provide opportunities for vendors to develop ‘micro business skills’, and perhaps even inspire some small businesses.
An artist-in-residence program, and therapeutic art and gardening workshops are also among the initiatives offered.
Access Australia Group also has plans for school holiday programs.
“This is a place where everyone can be involved,” the deputy chair of the group’s board, Greg Westbrook, said.
“It allows us to bring all of our different elements into one place.”
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There was still more Mr Westbrook said the organisation aspired to achieve.
“We haven’t finished yet,” he said.
As he welcomed the attendees to his grandfather’s country, Dja Dja Wurrung man Trent Nelson acknowledged the contribution community groups made to the region.
“It actually brings us together as a community,” Mr Nelson said.
Bendigo mayor Margaret O’Rourke, who officially opened PepperGreen Farm, said the project about more than making money.
“It’s about changing lives,” she said.
“People in Bendigo will really embrace this.
“It’s going to be – and is – a special part of our community”.