As spring approaches and the chill in the air retreats, the time is ripe for Caroona Yamba Hostel’s new gardeners to venture outside and get their gloved hands dirty.
Last week more progress was made in establishing The Village Garden Project, as resident gardeners and community groups worked together to tend to the first of the new beds.
The project is an initiative of the Yamba Farmers Market and local not-for-profit organisation, Organic Matters Foundation (OMF), which develops sustainable and ecologically sound farming practices with farmers across the Pacific region – from the smallest to the largest –, to ensure they have “access to grass roots farming ethos and practices”.
The farmers market’s committee chair and founder of OMF, Mike Smith, said he is looking forward to seeing the project grow and continue developing along organic gardening principles.
“The farmers market committee and OMF is pleased to be donating our profits this year back into our community,” Mr Smith said. “Helping to build this garden is one of the best ways we could be involved.
“We’ve sponsored a design competition; and the judges from among the gardeners here at Caroona have decided to split the prize money between two of the designs that were entered.
“Competition winners Jodie Stephenson and Edwina Cameron shared the prize – and they’ve both chosen to donate their prize money back into the project.
“What a great gesture.
“The prize money [$200], together with the donation from the farmers market committee [$400], will be used to provide soil mulch and other items to establish the garden.”
David Barnier, who is one of the garden’s organisers, said: “This project came about because we thought everyone deserved to have a vegetable garden that they could enjoy spending time in.
“The garden will serve as a way to engage residents, staff and volunteers on a level playing field – when you come out into the garden everyone becomes a gardener and we are all working together to make a space where we can grow some vegetables and flowers and get some exercise and fresh air.
“We hope everyone will get their hands dirty looking after the compost, watering the plants or just enjoying the space.”
Caroona Hostel’s deputy care service manager, Michael O’Neill, said the garden will “enhance the socialisation of our residents and provide a focus on an activity that takes them outside”.
“They can see it grow from a seedling to [maturity] and produce something we’ll eventually be able to sell commercially,” he said.
“We’ll be able to use our produce internally and get to the point where we could have a little stall at the Yamba Farmers Market, and donate to local restaurants like Craig & Irons, who have been good enough to initiate the program.
“The plan is that the more able-bodied residents will be able to … tend the garden and attend the markets and have a little stall.
“It’s not just all vegetables, though, it’s sensory with things like lavender and aromatherapy essential oil plants as well, to stimulate their feelings of wellbeing and contentment.”
Meanwhile, there are plans to involve other community groups in the project.
Mr Barnier said there are some groups and individuals who have already put their hands up to help, “but there’s always room for more”.
“We’re going to need some help constructing permanent garden beds and accessible areas in the garden,” he said.
“This is just the first garden; we really hope that we can replicate the success of this project in aged care centres and nursing homes everywhere – everyone needs to be able to grow their own food, no matter where they live.”
To get involved with The Village Garden project contact the organisers through their facebook page facebook.com/thevillagegardenproject