It is inevitable … climate change will become a permanent part of our lives. Australia’s population ± like the rest of the world ±will be required to make adjustments as governments work towards significant solutions.
The cost of our basic food diet is heading skywards as our world food supplies dwindle. This is due to increasing populations, crops being channelled towards the production of fuel additives, deteriorating soil quality and droughts. We must face facts; we as a community must begin the long haul to adjust the processes we employ to gather food and alter our somewhat wasteful useage.
Is it now time to return to the methods our parents and grandparents used to survive?
I believe we should revisit and invest in growing our own fruit and vegetables – not only is it inexpensive and rewarding, it enables us to exchange surplus supplies with neighbours. For many decades self sufficient households thrived. However, as the pace of life accelerated, these became all but dead and buried.
As the world is finally becoming conscious of the elements that need controlling, we as a community can make a difference.
A return to self-sufficiency would provide great cost savings, give enormous enjoyment and allow us to contribute significantly to the environment.
Why stop at having a backyard garden? Let’s go all the way and reintroduce what has been a major void in our backyards – the establishment of a poultry yard. Yes; it is time to bring back chooks to grace our home plots – even the odd rooster or two would not be amiss.
Before you grab a pen and start writing to me about the rooster’s delicate and beautiful wake up call disturbing the peace … think. Is it all that bad? Where I live there are many birds who believe they are filling the rooster’s role, with a constant cackle and call before dawn. So I ask, what is the difference? Listening to a rooster’s crow is better than hearing noisy traffic and other sounds that break the peace of mornings.
If every household had some laying hens, they would have a constant supply of eggs, an avenue to dispose of waste matter and ready made fertiliser for their gardens. Add a worm farm and the scenario is complete. Worm farms are brilliant – good for waste matter, dog droppings and a brilliant source of fertiliser.
The simple act of planting a backyard garden will create positive environmental, economic, and social impacts for a neighbourhood. Neighbourhoods would come alive, with the old fashioned bartering system being employed – swapping produce, providing an all fresh supply of fruit and veggies full of nutrients.
If you do not want to head down that path, then we should investigate the idea of community gardens.
Community gardens are not new – they have been a fact of life in the close communities in England for over a century. Retired people, people with grown up and young families, people living in units without backyards have all joined in the community garden revolution.
Community gardens transform empty lots into green, living spaces. They are a collaborative project created by members of the community; residents share in both the maintenance and rewards of the garden produce. These gardens foster cultural understanding and an awareness of the environment around us.
In Australia, Dr Darren Phillips started The Australian Community Gardens Network in 1996. His idea was to set up an Australia-wide network of people interested in community gardens, city farms, urban agriculture and community education centres. Since the first was established, they have become a vibrant, eye catching and popular community activity in many parts in Australia.
Tucked away behind the Forster Neighbourhood Centre is an attractive open space housing the local community garden. The 50 colourfully painted tank type containers are bursting with organically grown fruit and vegetables. The project is run by members of the local community, who enjoy growing their own chemical free food, breathing some fresh air and having a few laughs.
The Forster project is a perfect example of making a contribution to the environment – similar to most community gardens, which see the use of organic gardening methods and the non use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Bordering the Penenton Creek, the gardens have involved other projects, including revegetation – returning the creek to near pristine condition.
The gardens employ and experiment with companion planting to eliminate the insects and pests we expect in gardens. Most are organic; it costs less and enhances and promotes gardening skill, knowledge and self-reliance. On site are a worm farm, compost facility, and a tank which collects water, to keep the plants healthy. The openness has not posed a security problem, with one incident recorded since it began.
The Forster gardens is in the care of horticulturist Megan Cooke and Neighbourhood Centre Manager Tanya Wallace, whose hard work and vision have seen many parts of the community unite. This band of community members are making a major contribution to society. Megan believes community gardens also assist in contributing to a better lifestyle.
“It promotes companionship and fun. Growing something in the company of others and meeting people from different walks of life adds to the enjoyment.”
There is strong sense of community input when you visit the Forster Community Gardens. Investigating the content of the 50 plus tank tubs, you get a special feeling, demonstrating the magical qualities of gardening. The Forster Community Gardens have been in operation for twelve months and have a band of 50 plus volunteers who tend the gardens twice a week.
Megan conducts workshops and gives educational and information talks once a month on Saturdays. The success of the project has led to another being established in Tuncurry, which grows herbs and vegetables and is used as an educational vehicle for children.
Community gardens are becoming a revolution. With Councils having many plots of accessible, open land in central locations, the opportunity is available to create many more. There are many more locations around the Great Lakes and many suitable sites in the Manning Valley that would be ideal for these projects.
There are several different methods for establishing community gardens. They can be established to manage a community food garden for the supply of fresh, organically grown food to its members, or they can be established to provide individual allotments or shared gardens to accommodate larger numbers of people in the community.
Councils being willing to donate or allow the use of land is another element; it can eliminate unused land and give them another avenue to improve the quality of life in their regions. Gardening is not a time consuming exercise – it only needs a small amount of time to maintain healthy growth.
With Great Lakes leading the way, it is about time we challenged our new Councillors in the Manning Valley to provide suitable sites for community gardens.
Establishing community gardens will enhance the environment, allow the community to eat fresh produce and aid in the factors of climate change. The community has the man power, the inclination and motivation to establish a community oriented activity.
I hope in our next issue we can report that Greater Taree City Council has taken up the challenge to follow the terrific initiative of the Great Lakes Council – by allowing the establishment of a community garden.
Story by Peter Lyne.