For the members of Yass Community Garden, it’s all about people getting together, learning from each other, and getting their hands dirty.
Since 2012, the small group of people have been spending their free time being productive. They include bureaucrats, people with special needs, teachers, retirees, and range in ages from three to people in their 80s.
They come from town and from farms as far afield as Galong and Bowning to what Yass Community Garden president Linda Swadling describes as a meeting place. They might opt to rake, weed, plant, cultivate, pick, or simply contribute in some way that makes this unique sense of community work.
Yass Community Garden is the sort of place that is what each member makes of it.
According to Linda, it’s somewhere where likeminded souls get together for the best of reasons. Some may not have the room at home to grow anything, others may just want company. The reasons are as diverse as the produce they grow.
For some, the garden has become a ‘green gym’, a place to get fit while doing constructive work.
For others, the gardening side is all well and good, but the installation of a pizza oven sealed the deal. Even construction of the oven was treated as a learning exercise. Not the eating side so much – that was a given – but a workshop on its construction out of straw bale cobs and clay was a hit.
“This place means something different to everyone who uses it,” says Linda, adding it’s a place for produce and humans to grow.
It’s also the sort of place where it’s perfectly fine to use some methods, and completely wrong for others. For example, ride-on mowers fall into the latter category. Rather, when Linda saw how high the grass had grown after a wet weekend, she brought in her scythe to clean it up.
“It was my grandfather’s,” she said. “I inherited it.”
Yass Community Garden has always been about learning. Since it began, members have been treated to workshops on everything from making worm towers to winemaking.
It operates from a block of land only a street back from the main one in Yass, adjacent to the Anglican Church. A tennis club in its former life, the garden is now about the size of three courts.
Clearly aware of how working the land can help cleanse the mind, the Anglican Church provides the land for a peppercorn rent, allowing members to utilise it all with fruit trees, vegetable plots, seeding tables and whatever else they want to grow.
Yass Community Garden has grown to a point where most of its infrastructure is in place. Plots are in, the soil is aerated, trees are planted, and a shade cloth is in place. What it’s now looking for is more humans to help grow it.
It has up to 20 members on a good day, but according to Linda, there’s room for many more.
“I am a big believer in making a difference at the grassroots level,” she says. “I feel I can do things in the garden that can’t happen in other places.”
Linda believes others feel the same.
To that end, every Wednesday in November, members and guests are invited to take part in ‘Common Ground’, a series of information nights and garden tours. Linda says the group was keen to engage people who want to make connections.
“We’ve got everything pretty much in place now,” she says. “What we need now is more people to come and enjoy this with us.
“We have a great space here, but I don’t think it’s reached its full potential yet.”
Common Ground commences at Yass Community Garden, located at Pritchett Street in Yass, on Wednesday, 3 November, from 6 pm to 7 pm.