SEED and Nexus Featured in Tasmanian Country

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We are excited to see our social enterprise, SEED, and our Nexus Customised Employment Team featured in Tasmanian Country this month!

It is great to have their efforts to support people with disability in gaining meaningful real-world employment skills acknowledged.

Currently, fifteen people are employed and receive an award wage as part of SEED. This unique initiative started after Nexus leased an orchard in the Huon in 2021 as part of its Customised Employment program. The Nexus Customised Employment program not only provides on-the-job training but also focuses on enhancing employment skills. 

According to Jackie Gregory, the General Manager of SEED, the orchard has evolved into more than just a workplace for people. 

“People here have truly grown and blossomed, and the remarkable friendships they’ve formed are truly amazing,” she said. 


Tasmanian Country, January 26, 2024 edition 

Headline: Orchard retirement plan is working wonders 

Article by Gladys Barreta 

Against a backdrop of rolling farmlands, Stoney Banks Orchard has become the perfect place for people to enter the agriculture industry and learn new skills. 

Orchard owner Bob Parks has been producing apples in the Huon Valley since the late 60s and is one of the longest stall holders at Salamanca. 

When he decided it was time to hang up his apple bag and put the tractor away, he didn’t want to see his orchard go to waste. 

Mark Jessop, CEO of disability organisation Nexus, came across Bob’s property in 2021 and leased the land for people with disabilities to learn about agriculture. 

It was the best of both worlds: 

Nexus had a space to offer as an employment opportunity and Bob could now put his feet up knowing his orchard was in good hands. 

Manager of Nexus Customised Employment and General Manager of Seed, Jackie Gregory, says the orchard has become more than just a workspace for people. 

“The changes in some of these guys is more than just their work skills. We have some guys that have been beaten down by the system and put into jobs that weren’t suitable and have lost all confidence,” she said. 

“Now we have people who are just so excited to come to work here every day. 

“People here have really grown and blossomed. The mateships they create also is amazing.” 

She said it was good to see the orchard has come a long way since they started working on it. 

“Bob has put so many years and love into his orchard and nobody likes to see an orchard go to waste,” 

Jackie said. 

“Starting the lease keeps Bob having an income and when the time comes to sell, it is still a functioning orchard.” 

Currently, Seed Employment employs about 15 pickers for the season and during the week they have about eight employees helping maintain the orchard. 

Jackie said before coming across Stoney Banks they’d been looking at ways to employ people with disabilities where they can pay an award wage. 

She said finding employment that pays award wage had always been a challenge. 

“This program also works with people on employment skills as well as working on the job,” she said. 

“There was a gap in the middle where people hadn’t really had a lot of experience or didn’t know how to attend work properly. All the soft skills. 

“Our program is targeted for people in the gap where they’re highly skilled but need that support to build on their skills and move on. 

“The idea here is that they gain skills here and then move on to jobs. 

“It gives them the opportunity to have something down in their resume because a lot of people with disabilities don’t have that. They’re earning a wage as well, getting paid the standard award rate. 

“Some people need longer than others to build the skills up and some people don’t pick as quick as others. But they get paid according to what they’re doing. 

“It’s all very fair and equitable and everybody gets paid.” 

Currently many of their employees are based in Hobart but the aim is to attract more people from the Huon Valley area. 

Manager of Seed Orchard and support worker Haydn Schooling-Waters has been working one-on-one with clients teaching practical based skills. 

While he hadn’t worked in agriculture before he started supporting clients at Stoney Banks, Haydn has also found a lot of joy in maintaining the orchard as well as teaching people. 

He travels from Hobart to the Huon Valley most days of the week with a client teaching them how to prune, clearing, spraying and basic maintenance. 

All employees complete an AgCard – an online course about farm and chemical safety – before starting work. 

Some employees also have the opportunity to receive fully funded forklift licences. 

“A lot of people take these skills and get to put them to use at home as well,” he said. 

“One of the guys who worked here has gone off and has started their own gardening business. It’s about getting that foot in the door and getting some experience. 

“The social aspect and the social skills as well are important and it gets people outside of the house in 

some fresh air and some sun.” 

Haydn said he has a received a lot of good feedback from neighbours about the work they’ve been doing on the orchard.  

Photo 3: Orchard worker Jesse Albert, Manager of Seed Orchard Haydn Schooling-Waters and orchard worker Jack Sullivan holding apple trees.  

Photo 4: the sign proclaiming the partnership between Nexus and Seed who lease the orchard from Stoney Banks Orchard. 

He also said that it’s been a good way to teach clients skills and create a space that is inclusive.  

“I think it’s important that they feel included and with agriculture being quite old school sometimes, it’s great to be able to offer an opportunity like this to people.  

“The program has been received really well. When we drop our apples off to people, everyone is always so involving.”  

Haydn said the job was also a lot about being able to cater to diverse needs and abilities.  

He said they were always ready to adapt to different situations to make working easier and possible for everyone.  

“If there’s a job that’s a bit tricky, we will try and tailor it to each person and we might have to do it a little different,” Haydn said.  

Anyone with a disability between the ages of 15 to 65 is welcome and for people who are interested in having a go, there’s no commitment straight away.  

Stoney Banks sells the majority of its produce at the Salamanca Markets with some sold to Willie Smith’s and Simple Cider.  

Stoney Banks also donates to Loaves and Fishes, a Tasmanian emergency food relief provider organisation. 

Employees work one-on-one with a support worker and can choose to work during off and on season.  

Jackie said the program is all about the client involvement from a disability perspective and transition to employment. 

She said it’s about showing people with disabilities that there is a pathway into agriculture and making connections in the industry.  

“This program is about keeping those connections and keep supporting the people we’re supporting and in turn them supporting us.  

“It’s also about keeping the orchard alive and keeping Bob in his home.” 

The article ends. 

To read our latest Annual Report: 2022/2023, click here