Community: Matakana - A growing community

By Sophie Barclay

A community garden in Matakana celebrates the first harvest with the local school and celebrity chef Lauraine Jacobs.

A new community garden has been established by two hard working green thumbs an hour north of Auckland. The Matakana Community Garden was set up by locals Robin Barclay and permaculture guru Trish Allen (of Rainbow Valley Farm fame). Barclay and Allen crossed paths at a bee-keeping course last year and discovered that both had a dream to set up a garden of their own for the Matakana community.

In November last year, 40 keen community members showed up to the first working bee transforming the site behind the Community Hall from a weed-infested rubbish dump (complete with old bicycles, tires and rusty tins) to a raised garden bed with rich, healthy soils. Until last week, the garden was overrun with organic pumpkins - grown from seed that was donated by a local.

Barclay's background working with the Garden to Table programme in South Auckland, prompted her to work with local food enthusiast, super-mum and friend, Chelsea de Berry to get Matakana Primary School involved with the project.

The school doesn't currently have a garden, and, says de Berry, getting the school involved in the community garden was the logical next step in her quest to connect children with a better understanding of heath, nutrition and where food comes from.

De Berry and Barclay enlisted the help of well known chef Lauraine Jacobs who, last week, taught two keen classes of eight year olds whip up a tasty lasange and fritters - using pumpkin from the community garden and ingredients donated by the local Four Square. An extra lasange was made and given to a local family in need. Check out the recipes here.

Before the cooking class started, says de Berry, the children were asked how many of them liked pumpkin. Only a quarter of them raised their hands. The question was asked again after the feast and every single hand was raised.


Lauraine Jacobs and Robin Barclay in front of their harvest. Photo: Chelsea de Berry.

The following Saturday, some of the children set up a stall at the popular Matakana market selling the rest of the harvested pumpkin as a fundraiser for the community garden raising $350.

De Berry says that children are getting so excited about gardening that they want to start up the disused gardens at their own school. She says that she hopes the school will also continue to support the community garden. "The beauty of the community garden is that it's a community coming together. It doesn't take two parents to raise a child, it takes a community."

Barclay says that it is essential to teach the next generation about food and get them growing their own. "It's so important that people know where their food comes from and I want to help encourage them to eat locally and organic. We are lucky enough in New Zealand to have the opportunity and space to grow our own vegetables so we need to take advantage of it. "

It is hoped that eventually the community garden will become a hub for locals, offering composting and gardening lessons as well as a relaxing green space where members of the community can while away a sunny afternoon with friends or family.

For more information on how to get involved with the community garden sign up to the Matakana Community Group newsletter or contact robin@salcombe.co.nz.

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