Community gardens have always been a place to come together, learn, relax and make new friends — however, according to the Toowoomba Community Organic Gardens (TCOG) it may also do wonders for your health and the wider community.
Horticultural therapist and regular volunteer at TCOG, Russ Wolfe, believes community gardens are vital in supporting sustainable food production while creating an inclusive environment for social interaction.
“Establishment of community gardening projects in any locality can provide a gathering place for people to enjoy growing food together, or to just visit and connect with this process,” Russ said.
“Children can discover where food actually comes from, as well as watching important eco-system players like, worms, bees, ants, lizards and birds busy doing their thing.”
Twenty years after volunteers first began work on the site in 1996, Community Organic Gardens is aiming to inspire a new generation of community gardeners and hoping that amongst the ever-growing urban landscape a little green won’t go amiss.
“Some schools and nursing homes have already created kitchen or activity gardens of their own, but there still is a dream that eventually the concept of satellite community gardens may come alive around the Toowoomba region,” Russ said.
Furthermore, studies such as those by Victoria University food researcher, Dr Isabelle de Solier, have supported the claim that community gardens are an invaluable resource for any healthy community.
These gardens are not just about growing sustainable foods but also contributing to more sustainable cities or towns.
“Community gardening is increasingly recognised as being not just about food, but about lifestyle and wellbeing,” Dr Isabelle de Solier said.
“The rise of community gardens emerges from a broader range of concerns over the environment, health and wellbeing, food security, social inclusion, and community resilience.”
When asked about the lifestyle benefits of community gardening Russ said a healthy mind and body would await all who picked up their shovels.
“The health benefits for both physical and mental health [from community gardening] include increased physical activity, nutrition from fresh food, and building team work skills on shared projects, with people that we might not ordinarily meet in day to day life,” Russ said.
“Families who bring their children to the gardens often work together on their garden plot, but the kids are also keen to explore their favourite areas such as the ‘ice-cream fruit tree’ and the frog pond.”
TCOG gardener Pauline, a member who moved to Toowoomba from Africa, is also thankful for the inclusive attitude this local community garden brings.
“There are no black people or white people here, just green people,” Pauline said.
So what can you look forward to by joining a community garden?
Well besides the fresh air and supportive community, TCOG demonstrates that there is something for everyone in community gardening, even sporting a communal seed bank for beginners and shared garden areas including bush foods, a fruit tree orchard, herb garden and permaculture project.
“New members of the association are always welcome, you don’t have to hire a plot to be a member,” Russ said.
“Members choose all kinds of vegetables to grow in their individual plots, often swapping harvest items with each other or sharing seeds and ideas.”
The Toowoomba Community Gardens Association is a not-for-profit organisation promoting natural gardening and farming practices, anyone who is interested in joining can visit their website at http://www.toga.org.au/ for more information.