“Making Saints and Potatoes in Moorabbin, Australia,” Ensign, June 1978, 77–78
The potatoes are out, and the cabbages and brussels sprouts are in.
For the Saints in the Melbourne Australia Moorabbin Stake, each potato recently dug was a landmark—their first crop from their first welfare farm. The second crop, brussels sprouts and cabbages, has been planted. The Moorabbin Stake farm is one of four welfare projects in Australia. Others are in Fairfield and Sydney.
Helping establish this particular potato project were eighty women in the Moorabbin Stake. They cut sixteen tons of seed potatoes in two days last fall, so planting could begin. They brought their children, along with playpens, big umbrellas, and prams (strollers). “Sometimes the babies cried, and it just made it feel more like home,” said Bill Cowser, regional representative for the Melbourne Australia Region.
Members of the stake helped purchase the farm and buy equipment for it as well as donate much time and effort to make the farm workable. An obsolete farmhouse was refurbished and painted—“They kept giving until the farmhouse was lovely and comfortable,” Brother Cowser says.
The farm needed new water tanks and a new water pump. Somehow, a pump was found in Sydney, and the Saints in Moorabbin found the money to buy it and transport it to their farm.
The weather also cooperated. It had been dry, but after the potatoes were in, “it rained and rained, and soaked the ground. It’s been just one long series of blessings,” said Brother Cowser.
Along with those “blessings” went a lot of effort. Some stake members have to drive several hours to reach the farm. In addition, government regulations allow the land to be watered only at night.
“The members have to trot out there at midnight, move the pump out, and start the pump up,” says Moorabbin Stake President Harry Truman. Actually, the first crop wasn’t potatoes. It was weeds. “Somebody brought a weed over six feet long to stake conference,” President Truman says. However, most areas were well kept, “and we hope that next year the weeds won’t be as high.”
Each ward in the stake was assigned twenty-five long rows, with ward members responsible for the weeding and fertilizing. Irrigating, clearing ditches, building a dam, making seedbeds, landscaping, and other projects were assigned to crews. A Spanish-speaking branch raised seedlings. A young man from each ward was trained as a tractor driver and an adult was trained as a supervisor.
Through it all, the real harvest has been something more permanent than potatoes, Brother Cowser says. “The program is an outward sign that Latter-day Saints mean what they say, that they really do love each other. Welfare projects are a means of bringing people together, to get them to love and help those of their number in need.”
Members of the Spanish-speaking branch—“these new Australians who have a language challenge”—sing their native songs as they work on the farm. “We learn here to love each other—just as we do in the chapel. We really get to know each other.”
“There’s no fellowship in the world like getting out in the dirt and working together,” sums up President Truman.
Since the project started, stake members have produced not only a bumper crop, but also bumper stickers: “The Moorabbin Stake Welfare Project Grows People—Dig It.”