Community garden cultivating people

LET’S face it; it’s pretty close to idyllic down by the Lachlan River. At the community garden, the rows and rows of vegetables are coming to life, taking advantage of the rich alluvial soils. Spring has definitely sprung in this part of the Derwent Valley.

The bookings are starting to come in, thick and fast, including multiple good-sized school groups in the next week or three. Then there’ll be choirs and church groups drawn to this place. And the coordinator here, Tracey Baldwin, has a big picnic table installed, a roofed shelter area and a pizza oven in the planning stages. The garden is already producing its own seeds. The idea is to make this space even more attractive to our community, she says.

“Growing vegetables is a very good base activity, and we’re building on that profile to create more things to draw the public. “We’d like to make the gardens even more useable. And ready for people to visit seven days a week, especially with good weather coming.”

Tracey herself became involved here about seven years ago, after seeing advertising at the Derwent Valley Community House for a Certificate ll in horticulture. “The idea was to get women into horticulture, and I’d grown up on a farm at Moogara,” she says, “but this was the first time I’d had formal training in small-scale agriculture. “It was perfect for gardeners and those working outdoors, like me, wanting to expand their knowledge and skills, to enjoy themselves and be productive.” Progress and expansion of the community garden, she admits, can be in fits and spurts. “It’s often what we can fit in between planting,” she says.

“When I came here, we had a ‘work for the dole’ group assisting. They were a good bunch of people, and we were able to add the second set of beds, doubling the size of the Garden.” And right now, Tracey could use some more hands-on workers. “We need some more volunteers, people interested in gardening … even learning how to garden. “We have eight now, and probably could use twice that number, even people who’ve only got an hour or so to spare each week. “And we’re pretty good at teaching people! “At this time of year, most of the work is weeding, or planting, and both of them are pretty rewarding.

The Covid pandemic got people into gardening again, because they wanted something they could do at home, without having to go out.” A flood in 2018 set back progress a little, she recalls, but being on the side of the Lachlan river, it’s to be expected.

Tracey looks to a number of beehives arranged along the edge of her garden patch. “It’s part of the Sister Hives program,” she says, a Tasmanian initiative to draw more women into the sticky, sweet adventure that is beekeeping. Unsurprisingly, Tracey Baldwin has already signed up for a course. “As human beings, we’ve got to grow, too,” she smiles.