Puppeteer Peta Jane Lipski of Ballina performed her hand made puppets at the Summerland House Farm showcase day on Thursday, April 4.
Puppeteer Peta Jane Lipski of Ballina performed her hand made puppets at the Summerland House Farm showcase day on Thursday, April 4. Francis Witsenhuysen

Behind the scenes at Summerland House Farm

MORE than 600 people poured through the gates of Summerland House Farm for a celebration of opportunity and possibility for people with a disability.

The day was a chance for the public to peek behind the scenes at the farm and to gain a better understanding of the NDIS and what support services are available.

The farm, which comes under the umbrella of the House With No Steps provides employment opportunities for 97 people with disabilities, with jobs ranging from packing, de husking and farm work to hospitality and retail.

The House With No Steps was founded 57 years ago, and the farm opened in 1972 and is a hub for macadamia nut processing and fruit packaging, as well as growing produce.

Yesterday, visitors had a peek at the farm operations, heard about employment opportunities for people with a disability, and got a taste of the many support services House with No Steps offers.

Executive director of businesses and children's services Brett Lacey said the open day was about creating a better understanding of the NDIS, while showing the farm and its workforce in action to demonstrate the employment opportunities available.

"In the NDIS environment there can be a lot of confusion, challenges in terms of what someone can utilise and what services they can access and receive,” Mr Lacey said.

"We brought all of that together on a single day on a single site, while opening our farm for a greater understanding of what we do and what's possible.

"People come out and see the café and the nursery - but they don't understand that we have 7 000 to 8000 tree orchard. We've got packing and de husking and we are servicing a whole range of growers in the local community and farm work available.”

Mr Lacey said the steady growth of the farm's businesses and new developments on the horizon meant more employment opportunities for the future.

"We expect over the next couple of years we are going to need another 30 to40 people working here with a disability,” he said.

"We've purchased the property next door and we are in the process of planning that out to around about 5000 avocado trees and here on site we are expanding our de husking facility as well as the tourism and retail opportunities.”

Mullumbimby's Jo Condell said she came out to the open day to find out and and gain clarity about the NDIS and independent living for her daughter Emily.

"Everyone has been very helpful and informative in terms of support service,” Ms Condell said.

"This showcase is very important for the disabled community and for parents and carers of the community.”