2020 Winner

EWHA is pleased to announce the winner of the inaugural Small Business Grant is Suzanne Gearing, from Mongarlowe in New South Wales. Suzanne is the founder of a small business called Mongarlowe Gourmet (set up in 2018). Mongarlowe Gourmet is a small bush farm growing specialised products. Many small businesses across Australia have been hit hard by drought, floods, fire and now COVID. Suzanne’s story is one of resilience, determination and tenacity. Read her story and be inspired.

Mongarlowe Gourmet is a social enterprise bush-based family farm based alongside the pristine Mongarlowe River and bordered by the Monga State Forest in Southern NSW.  In the 1800s the land was turned upside down in the search for gold, so we are devoted to regenerating what we can, and using as little space as possible to grow our crops. There is a strong emphasis on sustainability with minimal impact on the land and the climate. When we need staff we always employ people with disability or people who are socially disadvantaged.

The profits from Mongarlowe Gourmet are used to support the Wagging Tails Community group. Wagging Tails Community currently assists homeless people on the street and has a free coffee group focused on offering a sense of companionship and community to people in the rural region who are suffering from depression or feelings of isolation.   Our goal is to open a coffee hub in late 2020 so we can expand on our mission, which is to address the high prevalence of isolation, loneliness and depression experienced by so many. The hub will be somewhere where everyone is welcomed and treated with respect, where everyone’s story matters, and where not having money will not preclude you from coming in for coffee and a snack.

Our main crops were garlic, vanilla beans, and wasabi, grown mostly in a large glasshouse and within the bush landscape.  We also grow vegetables, both for our own use and to give away to families who are doing it tough. Unfortunately, in the few short years since starting the business, my husband learned that he had a terminal illness, then in late 2019 and early 2020 we had drought, fires, high winds and flooding. By February we had lost just about everything and had to start again, including a few rare and carnivorous plants – you can see the carnivorous plants and a rare capsicum in the background in the photo …I just couldn’t bear to throw them out and inspired by a single green shoot I am trying to coax life back into them! Ironically, so that we could get funds to rebuild, we accepted an event management contract for an event that was to be held in April … then covid hit!

We are incredibly grateful for the grant, which has enabled us to replace vital tools – and anyone who has tried to “make do” with what they have instead of using the right equipment will know how valuable that gift is! We have replanted the vegetables, fought off the bugs, and replacement orchids and wasabi plants are on their way, and I am confident the future is bright.