Hens help people with disability crack the job market

Posted 1 year ago by Nicole Pope

Up to nine supported employees are involved in the everyday care and maintenance of the chickens, including collecting, cleaning and packing up to 380 eggs daily [Source: House with No Steps]
Up to nine supported employees are involved in the everyday care and maintenance of the chickens, including collecting, cleaning and packing up to 380 eggs daily [Source: House with No Steps]

An agri-business brought to life by disability provider, House with No Steps (HWNS), is growing job opportunities for its employees through the recent introduction of 450 chickens to its pastures.

Summerland House Farm, located in Alstonville, New South Wales has welcomed the new feathery residents to its already flourishing 172-arce property, to assist in the farm’s waste management, land fertilisation and education of animal husbandry.

Currently employing 97 people with disability, the farm trains employees in retail and customer service, administration, hydroponics, tropical fruit packing, avocado and macadamia farming, hospitality, recycling, gardening and landscaping.

The chickens, which were sourced from Bonds Backyard Layers in Gatton, produce delicious free range pasture eggs for the farm’s café and retail outlet and are moved from paddock to paddock in their ‘Chicken Caravan’.

These latest additions have opened up three new employee positions, with up to nine supported employees involved in the everyday care and maintenance of the chickens, including collecting, cleaning and packing up to 380 eggs daily.

Through its efforts in providing people with disability with opportunities to learn a range of skills and fulfil their potential, Summerland House Farm was recognised for Best Supported Employment at the 2018 National NDS Disability Employment Awards.

The farm was also recently approved for funding through the Building Better Regions initiative for a $6 million expansion, creating a further 31 supported employment positions at Summerland House Farm over the next two years in the areas of macadamia dehusking, animal care and tourism.  

Crowned Winner of Best Tourist Attraction - Ballina Shire last year, Summerland House Farm also features a water park, large playground, nine hole mini golf course, nursery, gift shop, museum dedicated to the HNWS founder and the Tractor Tour, where you can learn about Summerland House Farm’s sustainable farming methods.

Business Marketing Manager at HWNS, Lisa Murphy, says the farm is truly a place of inclusion and empowerment.

“Summerland House Farm definitely has a positive impact on those who visit. Many people are surprised to see that the café staff, including the barista, the tour guide and so on have a disability.”

“The farm breaks down perceptions and barriers every single day.”

Summerland House’s employee Royce, enjoys his role as the Tractor Driver.

“This place is like family to me. I love coming to work,” he says.

Lachlan, who works in landscape and garden maintenance says, “I love being here, I love everything, I love the people, my boss, everyone! My favourite job is potting plants up.”

Executive Director Businesses & Children's Services at HWNS, Brett Lacey says the chickens are a excellent way Summerland House Farm can continue their education of sustainable and ethical farming to both its employees and visitors.

"We saw the addition of the chicken business at Summerland House Farm as a great opportunity to provide new employment opportunities for our workforce, in an area that many have a real interest in,” he says.  

Mr Lacey also says by purchasing eggs from Summerland House Farm you can ensure you are buying farm fresh eggs from animals living their best life among the scenic pastures of  Alstonville.

“Combining quality employment experiences with sustainable, best practice farming, is a win for all of us.

“Our customers are now purchasing genuinely free range eggs and learning about the benefits of happy, healthy chickens," he says.

Summerland House Farm is open 7 days a week from 9am to 4pm. For more information visit their website.

 For more information on disability support and services, please visit DisabilitySupportGuide.com.au

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