Not your average cookbook—how The Farm In Galong is rebuilding the lives of women | HerCanberra

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Not your average cookbook—how The Farm In Galong is rebuilding the lives of women

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The Farm In Galong is a not-for-profit residential facility for women to recover from drug and alcohol addiction.

But it is so much more than that.

The Farm is a place for women to break lifelong cycles of dysfunction and disadvantage, a place to learn life skills, reunite with family and start life afresh.

It’s a place women can feel safe—and restore their sense of self—often after exploitation by violent partners, family, or pushers.

And it is a place to reconnect with nature.

Since 2019, The Farm has been operating to rebuild lives of women from Canberra and the surrounding region through a unique long-term program of residential care, psychological treatment, education and training and a strong connection to growing food and eating well.

Situated on a three-acre site of a former convent in custom-renovated residences largely provided by board member and retired Sydney builder Ron Natoli, and with the financial support of The Snow Foundation, the rolling hills provide space for orchards, veggie gardens, bees, chickens, guinea fowl, and a number of goats.

It therefore made perfect sense when residents were tossing around the idea of a project to showcase the restorative work being done there and a way to raise money for ongoing costs, that a cookbook would be both therapy and a way to give back.

The Farm In Galong Cookbook follows the ethos of “Use what you have, do what you can”. Unlike the complicated and luxe recipes you may see in the bevvy of cookbooks currently on the market, these are humble, economical and geared towards basic meals which have stood the test of time and sustained families who know what it is like to do things tough.

That’s not to say it is not a beautiful production, using photos shot on location by Christine Aldridge and evoking tried-and-true recipes our grandmothers relied on.

A board member of The Farm, Lynne Pezzullo, said one of her personal favourites was the meatloaf, and the labneh balls would make a great gift for Christmas—as would the berry jam or Bev’s Famous Mueslie.

A former Canberra managing partner at Deloitte and a health and social policy economist, Lynne said her connection to the work at The Farm had been life-changing and affirming.

While it is still in its early years of operation, the program has already produced impressive results in terms of allowing women to break their addiction cycle and re-enter the community with employment and housing.

“So far we have had up to an 80 per cent success rate for clients graduating the program, which in the area of drug and alcohol rehabilitation is excellent as most rehab/recovery programs unfortunately still leave a majority of clients relapsing.”

According to one recent graduate: “My journey at the Farm was something that has left a mark on me for the rest of my life, at times it challenged me, it helped heal me in ways that I never thought were possible for that I am grateful for the farm and the experience I have had”.

Lynne said that the women who entered The Farm had often experienced violence, exploitation, contact with the criminal justice system and harms from childhood.

“These are women who sometimes have never learned to cook so going back to basics and learning to grow food products and use them has been a really valuable way to add some healthy eating lifeskills in there too, as well as therapeutic connection with the land.”

Lynne said she had huge admiration for the determination and courage many of these women displayed in breaking their addiction cycles and turning their lives around.

For many it meant severing ties with ex-partners and restoring bonds with children and other family members. Residents graduate only when they are able to exit with new resilience, life skills, a job and access to stable housing.

Giving them a safe space, programs to restore their life skills and personal dignity, and the joy of connecting with the land had a profound affect on the vast majority of clients.

While The Farm has been running up to 10 intensive placements at a time, it is gearing up to expand to its full capacity of 20.

The full costs of the cookbook, which retails at $69.95, will be returned to The Farm and used for onging operational costs, thanks to the support of donors and publisher chillibeanmedia.

You can purchase a copy of the 88-page book from thefarmingalong.com.au.

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