Almost everyone in this rural area has land; even the new town blocks are big enough to grow plenty of food.... so why have a Cygnet Community Garden? I went to the weekly community garden day on Monday, along with about 8 or more others. I did some weeding, met some people, had a coffee at a local cafe afterwards then went home. It felt a bit soulless but, since it was only my first time, I thought I would probably get used to it before too long. I asked the old timers what was the idea of the garden, who was it for? The answer was "It is for people who want to garden with others and learn about growing food." It is a huge space for so few people to work; so huge that it is overgrown and lacking the "life" I saw in the community gardens I visited with Melinda, in Seattle (photo is of the E Thomas St P-Patch, Seattle). As a beginner gardener I think I would feel lost there and, like so many others evidently, drift away.There were 2 newcomers plus me.... we all felt the same.
Then I read Pattie's most recent blog piece about The Ton for Hunger Drive where people are growing food to help others. I think this is the best piece Pattie has ever written and I now feel inspired to try some of her inclusive ideas for making community gardens a core part of the community, for everyone. Once an area is ready for planting into, Pattie puts out the word..... " Come and plant some of your spare seedlings in a space marked with a little flag. Here are some suggestions of plants we need......". This means that :
- people can call in at any time..... not just the allocated sessions
- there are no requirements for you to make any commitment
- people are more likely to visit the garden again to see how their donations are doing and may become regular helpers over time
- people can stand around, chat, laugh, meet neighbours etc and not feel they have to be fit enough to do lots of work
- when the food is grown, there is a bigger group of people who may be willing to help harvest and distribute the food to needy families
- the breadth of ownership of the project grows and grows and the community garden truly becomes a garden by and for everyone in the community, with everyone welcome to contribute in whatever way they can
- the needy families themselves have an opportunity to give some time too, meaning they can learn to grow food for themselves and even help feed others through their actions.
- all sorts of activities could be encouraged in the garden space and people really would learn not just to grow food but to belong
Of course there needs to be a group of regular weeders, waterers and organisers but, and this is a big but, success is measured in how much can be given away, not by how much they produce for themselves. This approach would soon weed out the power hungry and encourage the philanthropic, the creative and the generous spirited.
Perhaps this could be the future focus of the Cygnet Permaculture Food Forest, because permaculture seeks to integrate rather than segregate as well as focusing on opportunities rather than obstacles. It could be the start of the Huon Valley Sustainability Plan, in conjunction with Transition towns of Tasmania.
In another excellent article of Pattie's she asks...the city of Seattle sustainability plan establishes a level of service of one community garden for every 2,500 citizens. In my city, that would mean we need 16 community gardens. What would it mean for your city?
There are many different ways to make a community garden something wonderful for its community and none better than on tonight's episode of Costa's Garden Odyssey, on SBS, about the Kevin Heinze Garden Centre, and a centre for gardening it certainly is. People of all ages, with disabilities, have their own plots which gives them a sense of achievement and responsibility rarely possible in the rest of their lives. The smiles on their faces would bring a tear to anyone's eyes.
Another community garden Costa visited was the Maidstone Community Centre garden.... Maidstone is a melting pot of ethnic culture in Melbourne’s west. The community centre caters for about 8000 people a month from 20 different cultural groups, providing services such as cooking and language classes through to migrant and senior citizen’s support.... Community gardens can play a critical role bringing people together. Saida Mohamed, lived in Kenya before moving to Australia seven years ago. She works at the centre, but loves the garden because it brings people together. “You don’t have to talk about your culture or anything in particular but can come and garden and just talk....so it is good,” she says.
Community gardens need to be whatever it is that community needs.