Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

The 'other' gardening project has really taken off. We're partnering with the local primary school here in Beachmere to maintain and consolidate the school vegetable garden. 
The enthusiasm for this horticultural hub is infectious and the weather and plants seem to be on our side.
With big plans in the offing this is sure to be an exciting ride in the dirt.
Thanks to the commitment of the school community, the school garden is greening up.
Support from local enterprises has been generous.

With the backing of fund raising efforts of the P&C, the children, teachers and volunteers have worked hard to makeover the patch and within the space of a few weeks new beds are in production, seedlings planted out and lots of goodies are popping their green heads out of the soil..

Coming soon: a chook pen (built by a local Mens Shed). Vertical gardens...Scare crow. Mosaic-ing about the patch. As production consolidates we'll be supplying the School Tuck Shop and some local cafes in town with fresh veg...

As gardening and related topics is incorporated more into the school program the garden will function even more effectively as a key learning experience while also serving as a integral connection between the wider community and its school.

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That's wonderful Dave.  Qudos to you for bring it to the kids mate.  I love it!

Sounds great.  I think every school should have a garden like this - as well as the obvious, it can feed into maths, science, language etc in an interesting and flexible way.

I suspect the 'community garden' route is fraught with so many challenges -- land, water, insurance, incorporation, etc -- that it is mostly a too hard ask.

That's been my experience here...and the councils have shifted away from sponsoring community gardens too.

In Sandgate they partnered with the PCYC and racecourse and that was to mutual benefit.

Here I thought we could set up a sort of community gardeners group that gardened in some non profit's yard like grounds keepers...but then, during a chat with some folk from the P&C accessing and supporting the school garden became a possibility.

Especially as we had a trained horticulturalist on board: that gave us so much more confidence.

I think this is a new opening for community gardening because it embraces the spirit of the movement. But there are many challenges, of course, as volunteering in a primary school is regulated and access is limited (although we have overcome the sustainability challenge of school hols).

But if this works long term -- then there is a great example other communities and schools could consider.

I think the key thing is having a gardening project to focus on...and in this instance, we generate so many flow ons such as curriculum enrichment and child management. Working in the garden, for instance, is sometimes deployed as  a reward for good behaviour.

Similarly, when you get into school gardening -- See Google SEARCH -- there are any number of current interventions. And schools actually do need community help to run  these projects because there are school breaks all over the yearly calendar and each year, gardening schools would begin with dead gardens unless they had locals do the sustainble things like regular weeding and watering.

Just because you have a degree in Education, it don't mean you can garden...

And of course teachers don't sign on to do the heavy lifting and digging, nor can one groundskeeper run a veg garden and still do the other maintenance tasks.

The key thing, I guess, is that if --as it should -- the school has a volunteer management program in place then this sort of community partnering is feasible.Thereafter it's a question of space available.

In the Deagon racecourse Green P -- the local Sandgate state high school uses the market garden as part of its study units --so we aren't just talking primary schools. In our case, we need to point out that any volunteer must go through the process of induction and Blue Carding. And that isn't a simple business as schools need to protect their children and sustain their protocols.

This project is proceeding very well indeed.

We've been harvesting salad veg for the local community club bistro and the school tuckshop.

We are beginning to engineer the planting to suit this local demand for both herbs and veg.The produce is exchanged for meal vouchers which the P&C deploys for fund raising.

The vertical gardens have just been planted out and we are developing the shade tunnel for potting up use.There is a bore -- and spear pump -- on site , but we need to replace the hardware. Thus far we've been relying on the school's rainwater tank for watering.

A sandwich competition -- 'The Beachmere Sandwich' -- is being planned based on harvested ingredients from the garden and the school is promoting the community garden as one of its primary extra curricula activities.

Based on a core group of volunteers  I guess the key aspect of  a 'community garden' becomes clear: it's all about gardening together -- sharing the experience and swapping knowledge and skills, with the  driving passion rooted in the keen engagement of the children.

Each day, first thing, students come to the garden to water and 'garden' ; but because we are still building and expanding what's under cultivation  there is a lot of labor involved wheelbarrow-ing mulch and soil. Planting out times are frenzied.

The school volunteer protocols -- such as blue card registration and induction program-- is a practical but necessary hurdle, but once that's all  dealt with,  the rest is routine.

I circulate an email each week -- updates and to-do lists -- so that we are all on the same page: volunteers, P&C and staff -- and we have a work sheet attached to the shed so that any time someone arrives, there is a clear list of tasks pending.

The whole shebang is working extremely well.

Well done Dave. Definitely a worthwhile and successful community garden.

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