Vibrant local economies - Wyche's $1 Farmhouse Project
In a desperate bid to buck the declining population trend in their community, Wycheproof Vision wanted to do something practical to increase school enrolments, sporting club memberships, and to help rebuild the local economy.
Inspired by two other communities who had faced similar challenges, the organisation rallied hard to gain community support to initiate the ‘$1 Farmhouse Project’. The first to come on board was the local footy club, who faced omission from the competition because they couldn’t field a team in every age group. Soon the support was wide spread, including the P-12 School, Lions Club, Chamber of Commerce, Men’s Shed and the Salvation Army.
The idea was simple. In exchange for $1 a week for three years, a family would move into an empty farmhouse, and use their skills to renovate the property or perform some much needed maintenance, as well as the community. This saw seven families into the district and now more than five years on, three of those families are still in the community, gainfully employed with their children at the local school.
Project Coordinator Kylie Brown said that the change in the community over the past five to six years has been dramatic. Where before there was a tendency to be more reliant on others, rather than self, particularly through periods of drought and hardship, there was a distinct change in attitude once the project got off the ground.
Off the back of the farmhouse project, a number of shops in the main street were also rented out cheaply, to encourage new businesses.
The $4,000 ANZ Seeds of Renewal grant was used as seed funding to get the project started, and it drew more than $10,000 in-kind support in legal assistance to draft the contracts.
A lasting legacy
The momentum gained from this project has seen Wycheproof develop into a vibrant rural community that is much more sustainable and self-reliant, leading to stronger economic prosperity and outlook for the community.
It didn’t take much, in pure monetary terms, for Wycheproof to be put firmly on the path of sustainable economic improvement; however it did require a clear vision and the ability to work in partnership with philanthropic support.
Wycheproof won several awards for this project and FRRR has identified some of the key factors that have helped it to be successful in terms of economic development:
- Clear vision – to revitalise the community, stem the population decline and change the local demographics; to rebuild the social infrastructure that supports small communities and develop greater self-reliance.
- Strong leadership and project planning – a committed team of people with a strong visionary leader.
- Community engagement – strong backing and support from local community groups and service organisations, as well as the local Council.
- Attitude – strong belief in ‘doing it for ourselves’, rather than waiting for someone to intervene and save them.
- Long term plan – Wycheproof won several awards for this project, and demand for living in the district has increased, with about 20 new young families moving into the community in the last few years.
- Building on momentum – community has maintained an up and up cycle, and this is positively impacting the local economy. The hardware has reopened, new bakery, butcher and antiques store in town.