WinZero is very excited to be supporting the expansion and networking of community gardens throughout our Shire as part of the community drive towards net zero emissions.
Growing our own food reduces food miles and therefore our carbon footprints, and creates a healthy and increasingly important food resilience within our communities. COVID 19 has awakened many to the importance and joys of growing organic veggies and fruit in our backyards. Equally, the benefits of social gardening and skill sharing within a group has been highlighted. Community gardens are often the repository of a diverse seed bank of food crops acclimatised to our zone as well as a diversity of skills and knowledge within their membership about growing pesticide-free food.
On the 15th of September, 2020, we held an inaugural meeting of our new Wingecarribee Community Garden Network, hosted by Michael, Birte and Liz of the Four Seasons Community Garden in Bowral. The network aims to foster a supportive environment for all community gardens to assist each other in being the best they can be for their prospective communities and to make the path towards future sustainable community gardens easier in the establishment phase.
Such a network had been mooted four years ago when there were three existing community gardens in the Shire – Moss Vale, Bundanoon and Bowral – plus one potential new community garden in Wingello. Sadly, it got no further than an initial meeting. However, with the news that the Robertson Community Garden group had submitted a development application which had been approved by Council in August, there was renewed impetus to form an active network. Recently, further interest has also been shown in creating community gardens in Welby, Mittagong and another one in Bowral. Bundanoon Community Garden is also actively seeking a new site on council land in Bundanoon. Just last week, Welby Garden Centre (Challenge Southern Highlands) had a meeting of interested locals to start the process of developing a community garden bordering onto Challenge House in Welby.
Our most established group, the Moss Vale Community Garden, has been designed to demonstrate many “sustainable living” strategies. For example, it has a stand-alone renewable energy supply (photo voltaics & battery), strawbale constructed kitchen, several large water tanks, bioswale for stormwater retention & re-use for food production, a community-sized pizza oven and large composting and worm farming capacity. With all these structures, it is possible to run all sorts of educational gardening and food-related workshops for local residents, from cheesemaking to worm farming and eating in season.
Community gardens tick many of the boxes in Council’s Wingecarribee 2031+ Our Future Our Choice Strategic Plan. In 2009/10 Wingecarribee Shire Council invited its residents to be part of focus groups to have a say in the drawing up of this plan. Part 2.2 relating to goals for “increasing community engagement and participation” states Council’s aim to…..
- Increase access to fresh local produce for all and build local food security through supporting local food production and consumption.
- Increase community inclusion, cohesion and social interaction.
- Foster preventative health systems, activities to promote physical, mental and social health
- Provide structure in the shire to encourage physical activities and enable access to it
And in Section 3.3.4
- To encourage useable community space within the current urban growth boundary for each town and village
With community gardens providing many of the stated community engagement services within the community, our network is looking forward to cooperating with and gaining support from Council in the provision of suitable community land with realistic lease agreements that will encourage future local groups to develop new communal gardens.
Our next community garden network meeting will be hosted by Moss Vale Community Garden on Tuesday 8th December.
By: Jill Cockram and Kirstine Lumb-McKay