It all started late last year, when Liam Day, 14, and Jordan Lane, 15, started working at the farm run by Madi Leicester and Mitchell Bignell.
“Mitch and I became involved with the WILL program last year, which eventuated in me teaching the boys science and agriculture and Mitch teaching welding,” Madi explains.
“We then took on Liam for work experience at the farm and Mitch and I wanted to included Jordan, which happened to time perfectly with our increase in production which meant excess mushroom blocks that needed to be utilised somewhere.”
The result is nutrient-packed mushroom compost, which the boys are selling at The Poo Pile, 2204 Mount Samson Rd, Samford Valley and The Millen Farmer's Markets on Wednesdays from 2-5pm.
The compost is the organic material used to grow mushrooms in. It is comprised of coffee grounds, hard wood, wood chips and mushrooms (mycellium).
The compost is three times the strength of ordinary compost, so nothing needs to be added to it.
“Mushroom compost on its own is not much higher in plant nutrition than good compost, but it contains significant amounts of fungal life,” Madi explains.
“Organic mushroom compost is often hard to come by and it makes sense to mix with compost to make it go further, but if you can mix it with compost a few weeks prior to use, it can really give the whole compost pile a fungal boost before it hits the garden.”
Liam and Jordan sell small bags of mushroom compost for $10 and large bags for $20, and they get to keep half of the asking price.
Madi says they’re earning anywhere between $50-$300 a week, depending how much they sell.
Whole Self Independent Life Learning (WILL) founder and director Annie Lane says it is a therapy- based learning program, created for teens with High Functioning ASD and or ADHD.
It helps them reach their potential, which might not be possible in a mainstream environment.
“All the kids who attend the program run their own business, so this is their own business,” Annie explains.
The money they make goes into their bank accounts and can be used to set them up in employment, helping pay for tools, uniforms and other expenses.
The program’s mission is to bring families closer together, integrate participants back into mainstream education and or further education, and help them gain meaningful employment.
Liam and Jordan are at Samford Valley Mushrooms two or three times a week, depending on mushroom production.
It’s given them practical skills, but also a sense of purpose and understanding of how work can make you feel good.
Jordan says it’s also taught him how to work with other people and what’s involved in running a business.
“I enjoy it. It’s good fun. I like more hands-on stuff – anything to do with sitting in a classroom is not for me,” Liam says.
Jordan says he’s enjoying trying something different and is happy to do whatever needs to be done.
Madi is proud of what the boys have achieved so far and says they have also helped improve her business.
“In return for receiving the compost, the boys assist me by pulling out the spent blocks and moving over new ones. This helps free up time for me to do other tasks around the farm in addition to taking off some of the physical workload for me,” she explains.
“I have regular tears because I’m so proud. It’s given them both that feeling of self-worth and achievement that they weren’t getting before.
“In running their own business, they’re learning really important life skills that you can’t teach in a classroom.”
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