Community garden for Nabiac
Around 280 km north east of Sydney, Nabiac has faced significant changes with the once thriving local dairy industry replaced with an influx of both older “tree changers” and younger entrepreneurial landholders undertaking farmstays and mixed horticulture.
The Community Strategic Plan identified a lack of facilities for older people, and a lack of facilities and services to support young people. It also uncovered a strong belief that difficulties like these have the potential to be ameliorated by the great opportunities inherent in the natural and social capital of their small rural village.
A community garden had been a dream of locals for years, as part of their strategic vision for a vibrant, well-connected rural community. This was based on the benefits of connecting community cooperation, healthy food and environmental sustainability. Community gardening also appeals to a broad demographic, in terms of both age and socio-economic status, and is a proven tool to bridge social gaps and bring people together.
The concept of and projected outcomes of the community garden aligned perfectly with Karuah and Great Lakes Landcare (KGLL). One of their key objectives is to “support landholders to achieve healthy, productive farms and gardens in a diverse local agricultural economy”. It was agreed that the community garden would greatly help fulfil these goals, furthering their vision of community education and empowerment for environmental sustainability in the Great Lakes catchments, while providing the social outcomes that NMNC sought.
They received a $3,218 grant from the Small Grants for Rural Communities program, funded by John T Reid Charitable Trusts. The grant funds covered the costs of rapidly setting up a functioning community garden – prefabricated raised beds, high quality garden soil, hardware and a place to store it, some basic composting equipment, and dwarf fruit trees to suit the small site. The garden is located on community-owned land at the Nabiac Memorial Neighbourhood Centre, which is also the headquarters of KGLL. As such, it lends itself to environment-focused community education events, as well as meeting the primary objective of community connectedness and contributing to a fresh, healthy, sustainable local food system, as well as building the community networks that support it and flow from it.
Most of the planting material, including vegetable seeds and rootstock was sourced through local networks, primarily the Great Lakes Seed Savers Group, ensuring locally adapted varieties are used. Thanks to donations of material and machinery time from the community, a total of eight raised beds have been installed (instead of the original four), and plans are afoot for crop protection netting. The community garden is maintained by a core group of volunteers and a volunteer leader who lives close to the site and is an experienced food gardener.
The seed funding from FRRR led to further support from the MidCoast Council, who contributed to a community composting hub for Nabiac, based at the community garden.
A partnership between Karuah & Great Lakes Landcare and the Nabiac Memorial Neighbourhood Centre, this project has expanded NMNC's existing role as a community hub, connecting people and feeding a healthy local food system. A community space dedicated to sharing both the intangible but invaluable community goods of knowledge, skills and ideas, as well as the very direct physical good of delicious and healthy food and food propagation material, is a powerful force for community connectedness and cohesion. It has been a very effective means to assist people in the community experiencing disadvantage, through empowering a direct connection to providing good food through natural processes and some enjoyable work employing readily shared skills.