Small town thinks big

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

It only takes a handful of people to make a big difference in a country community.

Not wanting to see their local facilities disintegrate, a group of farmers in the little town of Pingrup is raising funds through a small but profitable community cropping program.

The group crops 70ha over three different land parcels, and last year, planted both canola and barley, making a profit of over $25,000 to add to their ever growing community fund.

According to Pingrup Ground Improvement Committee president Tim Borgward, the cropping program sent an important message to the Shire and government that the community wanted to personally contribute to the upgrade of local facilities.

"We want to improve our facilities, and we recognise that it's going to cost a significant amount in the long term, so if we can contribute to a project, it gives us a stronger argument to secure additional Shire and government funds," he said.

Mr Borgward said money raised over the last few years would be put towards the upgrade of the sports ground pavilion, including a desperately needed new kitchen.

"The sports grounds plays host to several home games of football each year, plus the Pingrup Races which draws a large crowd, and also houses the local playgroup each week, so we need quality facilities for those events," he said.

"The pavilion has really got to the point where we need to urgently upgrade it, or knock it down, and we don't want to see that happen."

Like so many community cropping programs, local farmers donate their time and machinery to the cropping program, with some inputs also donated by farmers and Pingrup Traders-Landmark.

But unlike many other towns, Pingrup has had the good fortune to secure 60ha of donated land.

"Yes, we don't have the cost of a commercial lease on that land, so we are extremely fortunate," Mr Borgward said.

"The family that has donated the land also assists us with the seeding and harvesting, which has been extremely generous of them."

He said while the canola planted on just 10ha struggled through the tough seasonal conditions, the 60ha of barley achieved an average of over two tonnes per hectare, which the group was extremely happy with.

"This project started because our sporting facilities had deteriorated to the point that neighbouring sports clubs did not want to come to our town to play sport, which had a big impact on the whole community," he said.

"We knew we needed to upgrade the facilities to keep people coming into Pingrup."

The first project the group part-funded was the upgrade of the multi-purpose courts.

Mr Borgward said the program had raised over $120,000 in the last few years.

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