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Shan McConnell from Brisbane is a logistics coordinator who, after seeing the difficulties the past few years, had bought on her local community, decided to start an online group to help those in need and to bring the community together.

Shan talked to AFIPN about the past year and the loss of her dad during the 2021 lockdown period, which saw them lose precious time with him as they were unable to travel from Brisbane to his country town to visit.

Shan stated, ‘towards the end of 2020, when my father became very ill. Then at the start of January 2021 was admitted to hospital; unbeknown to us, at that stage, he would never leave.’

‘At the start of January 2021, Anastacia Palaszczuk put us into another lockdown for two weeks which cost us two of the last four weeks we had left without father; we were told he had not much time left, and as we couldn’t’ leave Brisbane to drive to his country town to see him as the hospital wouldn’t allow us in either, we were left with the only option of doing a skype call in which one of our cousins thankfully were able to set up for us. Nonetheless, that was time taken from us that we can never get back.’

‘Thankfully, though, the lockdown was lifted in time for us to spend a little bit more time with our dad before he slipped into a coma and then passed away at the end of January. As heartbroken and upset as we were, we were just thankful that we got to be there with him and his family in his final hours and that we got to give our father a beautiful funeral that all his friends and family could attend, unlike so many heartbreaking stories I have seen and heard.’

Shan was then inspired by a friend who informed her about a small support group in her area giving away or trading goods to help each other.

Together, brainstorming that idea, they then decided to expand that concept to connect their community with locals who grow their own veggies, fruit, eggs, preserve pickles or jams etc. and act as a network to help others in need.

As a result, Brisbane Bayside Home-Grown Produce was born. A Facebook page that allows locals to gift, sell, or swap their goods.

‘I have never thought of or planned of doing a group before, so I had no idea how to start it, but with my friend’s help and a bit of google, I was able to get it set up and ready for us to start finding groups to advertise in.’

‘I Have also reached out to other groups and people to ask them to help with sharing the group, which they were more than happy to support and has contributed to the growth.’

‘I came across a few well-established food growers-only groups in South East Queensland that was like a gold mine for me but unfortunately, after asking their admin if I could advertise my group, they refused, which I understood, so I had to find people who grew their food another way by finding and joining several community groups that would allow me to post in which was also limited, but none the less I started to gain members slowly, and also some home growers’

‘I have had some people tell me they love the idea and the group; it has helped a few people already that were looking for specific herbs, and that had additional fruit to give away. We have almost reached 200 members, which I aim to get into the thousands, but slow and steady wins the race. They say’

When AFIPN asked Shan about her thoughts on the group’s sustainability and why it works, she told us.

‘This community group works by those who have additional produce, eggs or pickled home produce by putting a post up in the group advising what they have to either Gift, Sell or Swap and members in the group that are interested can privately message the grower to arrange a collection day and time. Or if there is a member that doesn’t grow but needs a specific herb, fresh produce, eggs or pickled foods, they can put up a post asking if anyone in the group has any available and, like the above private message, the grower.’

‘My friend has also started the same group for the Northside of Brisbane. I hope that people in different cities and towns around Australia can use this group as a template to create their own Face Book community groups to Gift, Sell or Swap home-grown produce.’

Shan has now started another Facebook group, Backyard Fruit and Veg Growers QLD, to find as many growers as possible with the aim of swapping tips and tricks and as a tool for advice and support. She also hopes the page will encourage others to start a local group of their own, making it easier, simpler and cheaper to get fresh goods and help communities connect in these often challenging times. We wish her well

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