ABC’s NT Country Hour reports on the launch of the Katherine Food Ladder

A women’s group in Katherine is planning to build a large scale community garden, growing fresh produce, right in the centre of the Northern Territory town.

The Katherine Women’s Organic Association plans to grow the produce in a hydroponic greenhouse, with the support of not-for-profit organisation Food Ladder, on a vacant block in town.

The project has backing from the local council and pre-approval for funding from the Territory Government.

Director and co-founder of Food Ladder, Kelly McJannett, said while the crops to be grown in the garden are yet be de decided, it will focus on “produce you just can’t get up here in regional and remote communities.”

“That is typically leafy greens, the kind of produce that is very nutrient rich, high in iron and incorporating that into the diet of local people,” Ms McJannett said.

“We will be directed by what is wanted, for us we are really excited to be growing leafy green vegetables, but we would love to be doing strawberries as well.

“Having a walk through the local shop, it is really expensive to get really good local produce, so we want to bring all those costs down and make it really easy for people to buy really good quality veggies.”

The hydroponic setup will use town water to irrigate plants in the greenhouse, Ms McJannett said.

“It is a very sustainable model, it is all closed-loop reticulation, so none of the water is wasted,” she said.

“We filter [the water], we put nutrient in, so no pesticides.

“We are not certified organic but we are certainly chemical free.”

If the Katherine model proves successful Ms McJannett said Food Ladder would look at starting similar greenhouses in communities across the Northern Territory.

“We really want to be working with communities all around the Top End, I don’t know why all communities shouldn’t have access to great quality produce,” she said.

“In that process we really look forward to working with government to make this a real strategic rollout to address nutrition in the Top End.

“We look forward to making a big dent in nutrition and making meaningful jobs for people in communities.”

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