11 September 2019

Social connection thrives at Goulburn’s community garden

| Maryann Weston
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Goulburn Community Garden President Diane Picker and community garden member and TAFE teacher Raina Emerson. The new Uniting Church spire is in the background. Photos: Supplied.

It’s not unusual on a clear, winter’s Saturday morning in Goulburn to see a group of people sitting around a wooden table in the middle of the local community garden, learning and exchanging knowledge, right before a communal morning tea and, ultimately, gardening.

The Goulburn Community Garden is located in the CBD, a block away from the shops and within the Uniting Church-run community centre, the Wesley Centre. It began in 2013 with a budget of $2000, best practice knowledge gathered from studying other community gardens, and is now a thriving learning centre as well as offering community and social connection.

“The garden offers an opportunity for the gathering of like-minded people, education, and inclusiveness,” Goulburn Community Garden president Diane Picker said.

“We have TAFE classes here, seniors from the McDermott Centre (Goulburn’s community centre) and students from the University of the Third Age. We hold sustainable gardening classes, workshops and the food from our ‘Food Forest’ is all shared.

“We’ve just held a workshop on ‘wicking’ beds…a way to drought-proof a garden and this morning, a Paddock to Plate workshop. Our community garden is open to everyone.”

For horticulturalist, permaculturalist, and community garden member Raina Emerson, the social connections the garden provides are important. She teaches an ESL class at TAFE that spends one day a week at the garden.

“A lot of people who’ve just moved to Goulburn join us to orientate themselves and to access the local gardening knowledge,” Raina said.

“For me the gardening is very satisfying, seeing things grow, eating what you produce and there is always lifelong learning.”

Diane agreed. “You can’t hurry a garden; it slows you down.”

Paddock to Plate workshop leader Ray Shiel talking about the best garden tools and how to use them.

Grants from the Southern NSW Local Health District, the NSW Government, and fundraising through selling plants and vegetables at community events, keep the garden going along with donations of materials and labour from members.

“Like all gardens, it’s a work in progress,” Diane said. “We try different things and when something doesn’t work, we try something else. Everyone brings their ideas.”

One member recently made a broccoli soup from the leaves of the broccoli which was shared around the group. In fact, sharing the produce from the garden in communal meals is all part of the social connection the garden offers.

“In the morning there is always a fire and we wrap our potatoes and sweet potatoes, cook them and share,” Diane said.

In summer it’s cherry tomatoes from the garden and crackers. “There’s always something to eat,” Raina said.

“And we use our herbs to brew tea and things like the Calendula to make oils. Everyone is welcome here. Children come and whole families are involved. It’s a sense of community and not just about growing plants.”

A love of composting: Landscaper and designer Stephen Roe near the composting system he’s developing at the garden. A ramp for wheelbarrows has been hand-painted depicting the nearby Uniting Church.

For new resident Stephen Roe who moved with his family to the region from Sydney, the garden offers participation, contribution and a way to connect with the community. A landscaper and designer, he’s putting his skills to use by building a composting system for the community garden.

He’s passionate about composting and equally committed to building a system for the community garden that is easy to use.

“I like composting. It’s one of those things I think that will save the world,” he said.

You can learn more about the Goulburn Community Garden here.

A bee lands on a sign in the Food Forest at the community garden, demonstrating that diversity is not just healthy for the community but also the environment.

Original Article published by Maryann Weston on The RiotACT.

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