In the U.S., the words “community garden” generally call to mind rows of rectangular raised beds lined up like plots in a graveyard. The beds are usually rented to people who want to grow a few vegetables, but don’t have room wherever they live.
In a place like Mullumbimby, New South Wales, the community garden has become the center of sustainability.
Located on the edge of town, the garden is a literal food hub, complete with private allotments, a children’s garden, Food For All section where anyone can work and take food home, permaculture demonstration area, outside kitchen and pavilion for outdoor performances.
They even have garden and seed shop with a master gardener on hand for advice. It is the crossroads between the old paradigm – where city dwellers depend completely on large centralized corporate systems to feed them – and the future – where communities learn to feed themselves.
After visiting Mullumbimby in 2013, I began to look for an opportunity to create a community-garden food hub in Colorado Springs. Last spring, the PPJPC launched its “Sunrise Garden Project” in partnership with Seeds Community Café. We fielded volunteers to help revive the dormant community garden in Dorchester Park.
While the gardening was good and we harvested lots of kale and veggies for Seeds Community Café, there were lots of limitations around what we could and could not do with Dorchester Park.
This year, we have a new opportunity to assist the staff at the Hillside Community Center.
“The community has benefited from our garden, but no one has really come forth to help out,” says Joan Clemons, the Hillside program coordinator who oversaw the construction of the garden three years ago. “So, we decided we needed to look at it another way and the Sunrise Garden Project came along.”
In partnership with Seeds Community Café and Pikes Peak Permaculture, the PPJPC hopes to bring garden expertise and volunteer people-power to the Hillside garden. We will shore up the existing raised beds, build a composting structure and plant, weed and water.
We will also reach out to the community in hopes of engaging a neighborhood that sits solidly in the middle of a “food desert.” There are no grocery stores, restaurants or even fast food purveyors in the vicinity.
The team has scheduled a community garden engagement celebration for 11 a.m.-3 p.m. May 9 at the center, located at 925 S. Institute St. – the corner of Institute and Fountain Boulevard. Partners from Colorado College and UCCS are involved in the planning.
An important part of the Sunrise Garden Project mission to make sure those who are often overlooked due to economic hardship or mental health issues are invited to participate. We are looking for volunteers interested in social work and counseling to join with gardeners, chefs and nutritionists.
Clemons and her small staff have their hands full running programs for children, teens and seniors. If we can provide a few volunteers a week, they are hopeful the garden will survive and thrive. It could even transform a neighborhood.
“I’ve been here 15 years and it’s always been our struggle to involve the community,” Clemons says. “But we’re forever hopeful.”
Steven Saint is the PPJPC Associate Director for Media and heads up the Sunrise Garden Project. For more information or to get involved, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.