Community

Veggie beds help rebuild lives after bushfires

Alex Rea18 February 2021
Kathryn Maxwell, Lorna Calder and Phil Timms at the SAGE gardening workshop.

From left: Kathryn Maxwell, Lorna Calder and Phil Timms at the SAGE gardening workshop in Moruya. Photo: Alex Rea.

When bushfires tore through Lorna Calder’s five-acre property on the NSW South Coast, she and her family, with their dog, Bundee, were forced out of their home and into temporary accommodation. She lost her four alpacas and her property’s two veggie gardens.

Last Wednesday (10 February), Lorna was one of 18 Eurobodalla residents who attend training at the SAGE (Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla) veggie garden workshop in Moruya, and she will soon take delivery of a free veggie bed.

SAGE, with funding from IMB Bank Community Foundation, will deliver to 32 families affected by the Black Summer bushfires.

“To have a garden again means I can get my hands dirty with my own dirt and grow my own things,” says Lorna. “It connects me back to my home, and is something that brings me back to my little community.”


READ ALSO: New drought-hardy garden beds for veg at Moruya Community Garden


The SAGE gardens are all part of a process of rejuvenation and renewal. The bushfires destroyed or damaged more than 600 homes across the Eurobodalla Shire, and one year on, many people are still struggling to rebuild their lives.

To help support gardeners get the most out of their new veggie beds, the SAGE garden workshop was conducted by Veggies for All coordinator Kathryn Maxwell and local seedling grower Phil Timms.

Phil has been growing seedlings for 22 years and is a stallholder at Moruya Markets each Saturday, and at the SAGE Farmers Market. Phil has donated seedlings to help get participants planting.

Participants in the SAGE gardening workshop listening to Phil Timms.

Participants in the SAGE gardening workshop hear from seedling grower Phil Timms (at front). Photo: Alex Rea.

The veggie beds to be installed at their properties are 2m x 1m x 41cm, complete with high quality veggie soil mix and sugarcane mulch to give seedlings the best start.

The funding also covers the installation of four large wicking beds at the SAGE Community Garden, which double the capacity for the community garden to grow more food for those in need at women’s and youth refuges, as well as Anglicare.

SAGE Community Garden at the Red Door Hall in Moruya.

The SAGE Community Garden at the Red Door Hall in Moruya offers inspiration to new growers. Photo: Alex Rea.

In 2020, the amount given to community groups throughout NSW and the ACT by the IMB Bank Community Foundation totals more than $450,000.

The foundation donated $50,000 to the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal in January 2020, and set aside an additional $50,000 to help bushfire affected communities rebuild and recover in the crucial months that followed, and in the years ahead.


READ ALSO: Spring Equinox to mark 10 years of SAGE in the Eurobodalla


In the months after the bushfires, the SAGE Community Garden sustained Lorna’s family.

“Each time I touch that garden I know the value and love of this community,” she says, eager to receive her new garden.

As Joni Mitchell said: “We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

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