Sam Judd

Comment on the environment from nzherald.co.nz columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: Community gardens to the rescue

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Community gardens can also be a great asset to the people, especially if they don't have space at their own house or, if they are renting, would prefer not to spend money on developing the garden.
Community gardens can also be a great asset to the people, especially if they don't have space at their own house or, if they are renting, would prefer not to spend money on developing the garden.

Last week I explored resilience at a community level and looked at an opportunity of public fruit trees.

The idea is, the more food we have growing near us, the better we will be prepared if a disaster strikes, as well as the implicit benefits of less transport costs, less emissions and a healthy population.

At a household level, you can surely store a bunch of canned food and clean water, which will last for a while. But perhaps one of the best initiatives you could take (if you have the space) would be to become more self-sufficient by growing your own food.

Personally, I believe the more time we can pull our kids away from electronic devices and spend getting muddy in the garden, the better.

The good news is there are plenty of fantastic people around who will help you to achieve this goal, simply because they believe in it.

A couple of weeks ago I met an inspirational couple of permaculturalists from Riverton in Southland - Robyn and Robert Guyton. They have grown a "food forest" which has become their supermarket and it has been so popular that it is becoming a tourist attraction.

They told me that they could survive off their land all year if they wanted to although they did say to have a complete nutritional balance, people would also need a big stash of Brazil nuts for the important nutrient selenium - which is not present in New Zealand soils.

There is even a food forest website that pools knowledge on food forests where you can find advice to help you get one into the ground.

If you don't have as much space in your backyard as the Guytons, you can still make some great progress with a planter box at home. If you need a helping hand to paint your thumb green, check out Hand Over A Hundy who pair up mentors with families wanting to grown their own food.

Another excellent opportunity for resilience comes with community gardens, or even better - educational gardens.

The Guytons spend a lot of time helping schools to establish and nurture food forests. There is also the inspirational community based urban farm project at Epuni School by the Common Unity Project Aotearoa and the fantastic work teaching composting, food growing and a myriad of other resilience skills done by The Enviroschools Foundation. The Garden to Table Trust in Auckland is also making significant progress growing food in schools.

Community gardens can also be a great asset to the people, especially if they don't have space at their own house or, if they are renting, would prefer not to spend money on developing the garden.

Always ahead of the game (perhaps because they can afford to be), the community in Grey Lynn (who have an excellent transition towns group - Grey Lynn 2030 - that will help you with advice) have done a fantastic job of promoting the Kelmarna Organic Community Garden for people who live near the city where space is at a premium.

But to me, the educational approach is the way forward, so that people across the whole population realise the benefits of resilience and proper nutrition. Then we might have a new generation that would allow fruit trees to be grown on public land and be more inclined to ensure that under-nourished kids get fed well before school.

Do you have any examples of successful community gardens that you would like to share?

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