Two of the things that are typically missing in the lives of young people who come to Tumbelin Farm are a Sense of Purpose and Structure in their day.
The Farm Life component of the Tumbelin Farm residential program provides young people with a variety of opportunities to engage in hands-on, experiential learning tasks that require hard work and resilience, with delayed reward for effort.
A typical day begins before breakfast with feeding the poddy calves. These gangly little guys arrive at the Farm at one or two weeks of age, completely reliant on being fed by the young residents. With the help of House Parents, a warm mixture of milk is made and carried to the stable, where it’s fed to the calves by hand. Day by day, the calves grow before our eyes until, after 8 to 10 weeks, they’re let loose into the paddock to skip and bounce around as they discover the full utility and joy of their legs for the first time.
The reason we have poddy calves is to engage young people in a meaningful activity that creates a reason to get out of bed each morning, one which is essential to the health and wellbeing of the calves. Without the young people’s commitment to this regular, systematic morning “chore” the calves wouldn’t survive. But by overcoming a desire to stay in bed and facing the challenge of getting up and into the day, the young people bear witness to the growth and development of these fragile and dependent animals. A question we often pose to young people is “I wonder how you’d grow and flourish if you nurtured and cared for yourself with the same dedication you’ve shown to these calves?”
Recently the young men planted almost 700 native seedlings along the banks of the watercourse that stretches from the north-eastern to the south-western corner of the property. Our aim is to bring 20% of Tumbelin Farm back under native vegetation, as part of regenerating a vibrant and diverse ecosystem similar to that which existed before European settlement.
Purchased from the Kersbrook Landcare Nursery with grant funding from the Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Board, the seedlings have been planted in a patchwork pattern which, over the next decades, will create an abundant habitat for birds and native animals to live in safety and harmony amongst the property’s agricultural enterprises.
The task of planting involves scraping away groundcover, laying down a cardboard weed mat, drilling a small hole for the seedling, and then staking a tree guard in place to protect it from the nibbling mouths of the local kangaroos. It’s a repetitive task that requires getting down on your hands and knees, covering your hands in the soil, often while a cold shower of rain blows over which can dampen spirits and make it difficult to keep going. However, by dividing up the tasks, working as a team and sticking to the task despite the challenges of weather and environment, an hours’ work yields a small patch of seedlings which, decades from now, will have contributed to the regeneration of the soil, water and ecosystems at Tumbelin Farm.
Revegetation provides young people with a visceral experience of doing hard work in the present, in the hope of realising a brighter, more sustainable future down the track. It serves as a reminder that the hard work they do on themselves while they’re at Farm, represents the first steps on their personal journeys of recovery, the full benefit of which is unlikely to be fully seen in the short term, but which will lay the foundation for a full and fulfilling life in the months and years ahead.
Whether you want to understand more about the Tumbelin Farm program or want to support someone who’s struggling, we can help.
Manager – Tumbelin Farm