Growing gardens

The Mt Barker Council’s decision to help establish more community gardens in the district is a step towards building stronger, healthier and happier communities.
Such gardens have proven their success all over the world.
Locally, the Duck Flat Community Garden is a shining example of how these programs are so beneficial.
They provide a safe and welcoming meeting place for all sectors of the community to gather, make new friends and learn.
Young and old, rich and poor, long-time Australians and new arrivals – community gardens do not discriminate, but rather bring people together and break down social isolation and stereotypes.
Gardening is therapeutic and interaction with nature has been proven to help reduce stress.
It’s also a gentle form of exercise and, combined with the end produce harvested, helps promote healthy lifestyles.
Such gardens are also a valuable way to preserve and pass on skills that our community is at risk of losing.
Few homeowners these days have a backyard vegetable patch or orchard, with limited space in new housing estates being one of the key reasons.
Gardens teach people the basics of raising and tending plants through to when and how to harvest and even how to cook and eat the produce.
These are skills that can be transferred to the backyard where there is space available, reducing people’s reliance on supermarkets for their food and giving them control over what goes into what they eat.
For residents without the space for a home garden, it brings them into contact with nature and offers the reward in a food harvest they can take home and eat.
There is already strong support for new gardens to be set up around the district, with residents, developers, schools, a bank and State Government agencies backing the program.
There are plenty of reserves that could be transformed by communities ready to band together and set up a garden, now that the program has council support.
But residents will also have to be committed to the long-term and willing to work to establish and maintain their local plot. While there is still some way to go before the soil is turned on the first new garden, with the policy yet to be formally adopted, it signals to those in the community keen to get growing that a new future is not too far away.
Author Lolo Houbein’s vision for a “garden city” in Mt Barker may well be an achievable dream that will deliver many benefits beyond the annual harvest.