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clock icon16 August 2023

Organisation Spotlight: Garden Created for the Community by the Community

Connection, Contribution, Collaboration – these are the core values at the heart of the Raumanga Community Garden.

Volunteers harvesting kumara at the community garden

Story by Janine Duncan, Volunteering Northland

After strong community support and enthusiasm for a shared garden, founders Pam Locke and John Lister decided to establish the garden on gridlocked education land at the rear of Manaia View School. Their initial vision was to build connections between the community and local schools in a shared space which the public are strongly encouraged to contribute to, and in return reap the rewards by taking away fresh seasonal produce year round.

Since officially opening on the 12th of October 2020, a dedicated core group of volunteers attend working bees on Monday and Saturday mornings. At these sessions ongoing maintenance and planting occurs to ensure the grounds are well kept and crops available for the upcoming seasons. Due to contribution from local individuals, schools and Northtec, community and council funding and donations of seedlings, trees, and materials from community members, organisations and suppliers; the area has been transformed into a space with a diverse range of produce, fruit and native trees.

As part of their vision, the garden has a strong connection with local educational institutions and in particular; Manaia View School. Two classes regularly contribute to the garden one or two days a week where they learn gardening skills from Pam and John; interact and collaborate with one another and ultimately transfer skills and knowledge learned into the classroom. Students have been involved in composting and establishing a worm farm, using garden produce to create meals at home, constructing planter boxes and growing and propagating seedlings. Additionally, each class is responsible for their own fruit tree which they researched, purchased and planted themselves from school funding.

According to Pam Locke, she sees so many positive benefits, ranging from changes in the children’s behaviour, attitude and engagement to increased motivation after seeing the fruition of their hard work. She says, “they are leaning so much science without even realising it”. Additionally,

technology teacher Daniel Watts has found that some of his students who struggle in the classroom due to learning difficulties have really flourished through working in the garden over the last two years.

Regular events are held to build connections between the community, local schools and the garden. These include Waiata in the Park, Matariki Celebrations and the annual kumara harvest held in June. They are very much embraced and well attended by the community and incorporate food, music and sport. In collaboration with “It’s Up to you Charitable Trust”, the garden also holds “Meals by the Community for the Community” where attendees can learn to create and take home a healthy meal using garden produce under the guidance of a Northtec chef. This event also has a pay it forward component where up to 80 meals are prepared and stored in a community freezer to be gifted.

In order for the garden to reach its food sustainability goals and community vision, more volunteers are always needed and welcome. No previous garden experience is required and times can be arranged for those unable to attend designated working bees.

Helen Piesse who started volunteering last year, says she loves being involved in an “altruistic” cause and working with an amazing group of people who wish to empower others. From her involvement, she has widened her community network and “particularly enjoys being outside on a sunny day hearing the birds and talking with her colleagues.” To her, “ food is a fundamental building block to any thriving community.”

For those considering joining this cause and being part of a group that accepts people from all backgrounds, she says “just come and talk to us and let us know what you are looking for and how we can assist you. Take that first step and allow yourself to trust in the process that can enrich your own life.”

If you would like to become involved, you can find more information and get in touch via our referral page here.