communitydevelopment

Guest Blogger: Kathy Finigan shares her thoughts on the role of community gardens

This week, the lovely Kathy Finigan from My Productive Backyard blog, has taken the time out to share her opinion and insight into the role of community gardens in upskilling and motivating their communities in food production. 

My Productive Backyard is a horticultural consultancy service dedicated to helping and inspiring people and organisations to learn, practice, and pass on the skills necessary to produce healthy, nutritious, organic food in a sustainable way.

In recent research conducted by the Australian Institute it estimated that 52% of Australian households participate in some form of food production and a further 13% would like to. However they also discovered that the turnover rate of people participating in home food production is high with most of the 52% only having been engage in home food production for less than 5 years.

In my experience with teaching community groups, it is often the lack of knowledge, which leads to disappointing results that then leads people to “give up” growing their own food.

Also most people need to have some form of external, ongoing motivation to keep them engaged. This may be as simple as a sms saying “great time to get your onions in this week” or a monthly workshop on what is happening in the garden this month.

The percentage of the population surveyed, not participating in food production cited lack of space and lack of time as the two main reasons for non-engagement. However the researcher indicated that from the statistics collected that this was a perceived perception rather than reality.

So how, as a community can we increase participation in food production and increase the amount of production per household.

I have just given a presentation at the Right to food coalitions conference on Putting food on the table, on a program I have developed called Share and Grow, which uses peer education and social media as a way to increase participation and production, but I can also see community gardens playing a vital role in achieving these goals.

With the demise of the local nursery I can see the local community garden becoming a centre of learning and motivation for local home food producers as well as supplying access to locally grown plants and other products, such as compost, which have been produced by the volunteers. This would make Community gardens self-sustaining which is necessary in they are to continue after government grants or local government support has ceased.

To give you an example of how I could see this working.

I recently presented a workshop on integrated pest control and part of the presentation was on attracting beneficial insects to your garden.

There were a number of people from a local community garden in attendance, and we got talking about the potential for community engagement and community garden sustainability and come up with a plan to run a short workshop on attracting beneficial insects to your garden.

The workshop would be advertised heavily in the local community, put on at a time when people are available, have a corresponding kid’s activity going at the same time and would supply morning tea to increase the social inclusion potential.

You would have to charge participants to cover the presenter’s costs (we were looking at $20.00 ahead).

We also looked at the potential of having, on sale, packages of insect attracting herbs and flowers, both plants and seeds, both produced by volunteers at the community garden.

Then engaging with local men’s shed to build attractive little insectaries which could also be sold on the day.

This gives the Community garden an income to develop and deliver further engagement type activities to ensure ongoing interest and enthusiasm in the community garden, but which would also flow onto home food production.

 

In order for a community garden to become the hub of the communities’ food production they must:

  • Encourage more people to become involved.
  • Have some method of ensuring there is a constant roll over of governance to avoid burn out waning of enthusiasm.
  • Be Welcoming of everyone.
  • Non-judgemental.
  • Tolerant of people’s different gardening philosophies, but with good governance guidelines for how things are down to reduce conflict.
  • Develop at range of communication strategies to inform everyone what is happening. This is so people don’t feel left out, ie notices, flyers, emails, SMS etc.
  • Have open days to encourage wider community to come and have a look at their local community garden.
  • Provide morning tea, lunch or afternoon tea to encourage social interactions and knowledge sharing.
  • Run weekly /monthly workshops that are of interest to the wider community, survey community to see what they want to learn.
  • Encourage local children to participate- research has proven that if children are interested in food production their parent will engage as well- run holiday workshops, always have child friendly activities on open days, have corresponding kids’ activities when holding adult activities. Always make the children feel welcome.

There is a need to develop the local community garden as the “One stop shop” for their local communities. Where people can come and participate in activities, learn and share knowledge, maintain motivation for food production, buy or swap seeds, buy plants, compost and other garden products.

With this model, community and home food production would become an accepted integral part of everyone’s lives.

You can visit My Productive Backyard on Facebook and Twitter also: 

https://www.facebook.com/MyProductiveBackyard

https://twitter.com/MPBYau

GRAND OPENING THIS SATURDAY: Rose Bay Community Garden

Despite only beginning this year in July, the Rose Bay Community Garden has gained an enormous amount of traction and is ready only three months after to host its GRAND OPENING this Saturday 25th October!!!

The campaign has been following the work of the dedicated garden members for a couple of months now via their Facebook, and through the help of a few dedicated people they have finally reached their objectives of creating a beautiful garden for the local community of Rose Bay and surrounds to have fun, socialise, learn, and of course grow fresh fruit and veggies 🙂

This Saturday will be such an exciting time for the gardeners and for the entire community as their will a plethora of things to do such as: meet Costa from Gardening Australia, have a sausage sizzle, play games, visit many stalls, have a peek at the Community Garage Sale, and OF COURSE take a look at the community garden and get involved!

With SO many things to do, means a lot of help is needed from 9am onwards in the form of a few different jobs.

If you’re handy in any of these areas that the Rose Bay Community Garden Facebook page has listed, please either email them on info@rosebaycommunitygarden.org or rock up on the day and help out in the following areas:

We’ll need:
1. A photographer. Are you handy with a lens? Or a pro with your iphone? Please come take some photos for us! We want to be able to look back on this in a year’s time and say, “Wow! That was a fun party!”

2. A runner. Do you drive? We might need to get extra supplies on the day if hordes of people descend on us and we run out of snags or ice. We have no idea how many people to expect, so we may need someone to do a run to the shops.

3. People to help set it up. 9am start
4. People to help break it down. 5pm start

5. A number of stall helpers. There will be a cake stall, raffle station, seeds and seedling sale, t-shirts and cap stand, books stall, flower stall, garage sale, kids zone, barbecue, lemonade stall, that all need back up helpers. Let us know if you’re able to do a few hours.

6. A head counter. Just so we have an estimate of numbers of people.

Extra stuff:
7. Tables. If you have any trestle tables, please let us know. We may need one or two more.

8. If you’re baking a cake or cookies or a slice or whatever, please put a label on it, so people know what they’re getting.

Have a fantastic weekend!! 🙂

*Image: Courtesy of the Rose Bay Community Garden Facebook page 

Health benefits of Urban Agriculture

We all know that gardening provides a plethora of benefits for people including getting outside in the Vit D, having fresh produce on hand, and feeling a sense of accomplishment after a big harvest!

However whilst reading some conference papers given to me kindly by the Sustainability Project Officer at Randwick City Council, I slowly realised myself that gardening in an urban environment provides great health benefits for people living in this concrete jungle!

1. Eating a more fresh and seasonal diet – when food is mass-produced and brought by the truckload, transport and storage systems decrease the nutrient content of many fresh fruits and vegetables (Feagan 2007).

2. Food systems are changing – the current food system of global sourcing of food is a business model created mostly by large retailers and has been very effective, however the alternative food system of community gardens shows that people are interested in growing and distributing food on a smaller scale. People have become increasingly aware of information provided on labels in large supermarkets, and are shifting their focus towards organically produced and healthier foods AND hopefully will start growing more of their own fruit and veggies after seeing these labels!!!

3. Physical activity – digging, weeding, planting, moving….it is all exercise and all great for the body!

4. Psychological health – social interactions between members of community gardens is a VERY important thing. As discussed in the ‘Conceptualising community in community gardens’ blog post, the idea of ‘community’ I feel is diminishing and therefore this focal point that brings people together and contributes to feelings of belonging.

To see how community gardening can provide health benefits and a sense of belonging to refugees, see this Fact Sheet from Gardening AustraliaBuilding a Future

5. Relieves stress – Getting out in the garden and placing your mind on something else other than your own problems is all it takes sometimes to be a solution to stress.

Take a look at another Fact Sheet from Gardening Australia on how gardening can be a solution to stress for people with busy lives: Solution to Stress

DO YOU HAVE ANY HEALTH BENEFIT STORIES OF YOUR URBAN AGRICULTURE EXPERIENCES???

COMMENT BELOW!

Guerrilla gardening

Even though this campaign is about sharing and connecting people to community gardens, I had a read of this blog post by Bee Kind Australia and absolutely LOVE the challenge they have proposed for all you prospective gardeners to do!! Even if you and a few friends got together and made a change in the Eastern Suburbs, like a few members of the Marrickville Council community have done, this would make it more apparent to the councils of the Eastern Suburbs that we ARE serious about bridging the gap between the nature and culture divide!!

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 6.59.14 pm

I have a challenge for you. Go out into the suburban and urban areas close to you, and look around. What do you see? Roads? Concrete? High-rises? Not much plant life, I’m guessing. Urbanisation is one of the main threats to bee populations today as natural environments are destroyed to make way for new developments. More often than not, the plant life destroyed is never replaced, which limits the food supply available to bees.

This is where guerrilla gardening comes in. But what on earth is it? Guerrilla gardening is the act of gardening on land that gardeners do not have the legal right to work on, such as abandoned or neglected sites, council owned property and private property. It is usually done in the form of a protest or direct action to provoke change. When I walked around the area I live in, I noticed areas of land, like this…

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Being green in the Eastern Suburbs with Jess Cheah

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Eastern Suburbs resident and inspiring sustainable sister, Jess Cheah, runs the social campaign The Green Flat which endeavours to provide healthy, easy alternatives to nasties without it being difficult or expensive. 

Jess and I have many interests in common in regard to being green and sustainable, so I thought I’d take the time out to interview her and give you all a little insight into the mind of an Eastern Suburbs resident and her thoughts on community gardens in the area.

What inspired you to start up ‘The Green Flat’?

I have always been interested in cooking, making my home feel like a home and beauty products… interests that have been with me for life. But when I moved out of home this year I started to notice just how many additives were in not only the food I was eating, but the products I put on my face and body, and the products I use to clean my home. Once I started to notice, it was really hard to stop. We are exposed to so many toxins without realizing, but the alternatives out there are fantastic and accessible.

Why do you believe that being green and sustainable is important?

We’ve only got one earth… If you ask me, it’s a pretty good one. I’d like to make sure we look after it so that we can keep enjoying it, because we’re the ones with the power to make a change- even if that change is switching to a different laundry powder. Every little bit from every person counts.

Do you grow much produce at home? If not, what are your reasons why.

Moving into an apartment from a University college, we are constrained on outside space. I don’t have access to a personal garden like I’d like, however we do have lots of potted herbs around the flat, which are functional as well as calming.

Are you aware of the community gardens in your area? And have you ever thought about joining your closest one?

We’ve got the Coogee Community Garden and the Randwick Community Organic Garden just down the street- both look fantastic. Brushing up on my gardening skills is definitely needed; I love the idea of growing your own fresh vegetables and while I don’t have much experience, I am definitely keen to get involved.

How does this statement make you feel…”There is a divide in the lack of understanding surrounding community gardens, their processes and food production, as well as a lack of enthusiasm and connection from urban dwellers within the Eastern Suburbs”?

I think that this is true, it is so easy to get caught up with work, social lives, and trying to balance everything that people forget to think about where such a basic necessity comes from and how important it is.
I also think that if kids aren’t involved from a young age, a lot of the emphasis on the importance of natural food production and the community is lost. It’s not all pessimism though, there is a real surge of people reconnecting with growing their own food, it’s much more fulfilling, and you know exactly what was used on it.

Do you think more initiative should be taken by the local councils in the Eastern Suburbs to encourage people to join their community gardens?

Definitely. People move home all the time and might not even realize there is a garden close to them or how to join. It’s a wonderful activity that makes us healthier people in body and mind, uniting communities and making sure we pay attention to what we are consuming.

If you were given a brief by the local council endeavoring to encourage more people to connect with their community garden, how would you go about doing this?

I think it would be a great activity for parents to involve their kids with, providing kids with a better knowledge of food processing, fostering community spirit and supplementing family diets. Talking to the local school communities would help to get families involved, also perhaps having seasonal guides or tips on the best way to garden or suggesting people sign up with friends- really getting information out to people via social media would increase the uplift.

 

To witness more of Jess’ wisdom, visit her social campaign blog at http://thegreenflat.wordpress.com/ or via Twitter @thegreenflat . Maybe you even want to follow her on all accounts (p.s. the campaign has a Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest also!) Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thegreenflat / Instagram: @thegreenflat / Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/thegreenflat/

Conceptualising community in community gardens

Is it just me or is the significance of ‘community’ slowly diminishing in our society? I feel as though everywhere I turn people are no longer willing to help their next-door neighbour put up that fence in exchange for a few beers anymore…But maybe it’s just where I’m living – in urban Sydney.

I’m sure quite a few people would agree with me, however I’m quite sure some people would think I’m crazy! However Moseley (2003) put it best when saying that the term ‘community’ cannot simply be applied to any collection of people who happen to live close to one another; communities are socially constructed through people sharing and interacting with a common purpose.

People always say, “I’m part of the ____ community”, but really you’re not if you don’t contribute and connect to the vibrant network of people that surround you. Keeping your head down walking down the street, not talking to anyone in the area, and not participating or contributing to an organisation or activity is NOT generating social capital. THIS is why I’m campaigning for people in the Eastern Suburbs to join their community gardens!!! I see too many people each day doing exactly this!

Honestly, who doesn’t like fresh fruit and vegetables? And who couldn’t take a couple hours out of their day to tend to a garden plot and catch up with some really lovely people in the area. If you just took those two hours that you spend at home watching a TV series, and instead you turned them into two hours of gardening and helping out at the garden…

A) You’d have a GOOD set of guns for summer

B) You’d feel A LOT better about yourself after getting outside and talking to people (or just talking to your plants!)

Community gardens generate a huge amount of social capital in various different ways, and I’ll run through a few of them for you now:

  1. People from different backgrounds are brought together with a common interest…FOOD – whatever the age, ethnicity, religion…A girl’s gotta eat!
  2. You feel like you’ve contributed in a joint activity and done something with a common purpose – My first foray into Coogee Community Garden saw me shoveling wheelbarrows full of mulch and then placing it around member’s garden plots – doing something for yourself is good, but doing something for another person is exhilarating
  3. Gardens create a physical meeting place – they give a place for people to meet new people and interact/contribute. Hopefully you all know by now that meeting someone at a nightclub or bar at 2am probably doesn’t mean that they are going to be the love of your life – and MAYBE just maybe, you’ll meet a like-minded individual at a garden!

So yes, you may just meet someone that you actually bond with on some sort of level because community gardens create networks of individuals with a similar interest and help people engage in social activities and share their skills and knowledge about food production, preparation and consumption – which is pretty scarce these days!

Community Gardens in the Eastern Suburbs: Woollahra Municipal Council Area

This post is the final post in the three-part series of community gardens within the Eastern Suburbs. This finally brings us to the Woollahra Municipal Council area and the gardens that have been established within these vibrant suburbs.

Considering that this area contains many suburbs and lots of open green lots, there are currently only two community gardens located within the area:

– Rose Bay Community Garden

– Paddington Community Garden

ROSE BAY COMMUNITY GARDEN

Location

Woollahra Park near oval 2 (behind the Woollahra Colleagues building)

General Info about the garden from the Woollahra Council website 

The Rose Bay Community Garden was officially opened in July 2014, to provide a space to create a beautiful garden for the local community, where people can learn, socialise, have fun, and grow organic fruit and vegetables.

The site is fenced and includes individual allotments, a shelter and a shed.

How to get involved?

The garden is having a Grand Opening on Saturday 25th October at the garden and you can find out more about the garden and membership then.

Links and email for Rose Bay Community Garden:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RoseBayCommunityGarden

Email for more info: info@rosebaycommunitygarden.org

PADDINGTON COMMUNITY GARDEN

Location

Trumper Park. Located at the rear of the Palms Tennis Courts, adjacent to the Council Nursery, and access is from Quarry Street.

General Info about the the garden from the Woollahra Council website:

On 29 January 2008, Council resolved to establish a Community Garden at the Trumper Park location.

The site is fenced and includes individual allotments, a shelter, water tanks and seating.

The garden acts as a demonstration site for the community to utilise small sustainability measures in their own homes and gardens like water tanks. The site is also used by Council’s Waste department to conduct community workshops on composting, worm farming and no dig gardening.

How to get involved? AND Membership (Information from the Paddington Community Garden website) 

The garden members require you to copy and fill out an expression of interest form as there is a membership waiting list for space in the garden, this form must be filled out and hand delivered to the letterbox at the community garden – Quarry Street, Paddington.

The form can be found here.

When there is a vacancy you will be notified to come along to the garden to gain some skills, to meet and get to know other members. You will need to attend 2 working bees and 2 workshops on composting/worm farming and organic and no dig gardening.

At the workshop a member of the committee will give you a membership application form to complete. Your application will be reviewed by the committee at their next meeting.

Links for the Paddington Community Garden: 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PaddingtonCommunityGarden

Website: http://www.paddingtoncommunitygarden.org.au/