Back in 2008, St Andrew's Uniting Church in Cooma was approached by members of the community to host a garden project. The Cooma Community Garden has resulted in multiple benefits for all concerned.
The Cooma Community Garden is run by the Cooma Community Garden Group, and hosted by St Andrew’s Uniting Church in Cooma. The aims of the garden are to create a greater sense of community, social inclusion, grow food in the Monaro climate and find new ways of growing in this climate, to share knowledge between generations, encourage organic home gardening and share produce.
How did the garden come about?
In mid 2008, a group of people in Cooma were looking for a site to establish the community garden. They approached an elder at the church, and after several meetings with the garden group, the church council agreed to host the garden.
Why did the church get involved?
Cooma Uniting Church is a community-minded congregation, and the garden is consistent with other church outreach activities (e.g. a breakfast program at the school across the road, hospital trolleys, serving tea at courthouse.) Over time, and as the community connections have been built, the church has become more and more glad they supported the garden.
What goes on at the garden?
The Cooma Community Garden is a small (approx 200 square metres) highly productive “demonstration garden”, with half dozen in-ground beds and four raised beds. There are plans to plant fruit trees. The garden group runs regular garden open days as well as workshops to show people how to start a veggie garden from scratch, and enhance their existing vegetable patches. The garden activities have included special activities for kids, for example, during the school holidays. The local library has been a great supporter of the garden, and often brings gardening books for display and reads stories to children.
What is the organisational structure of the garden?
The Cooma Community Garden Group runs the garden, and has a memorandum of understanding with the church regarding the use of the land. A liaison person is both on the church council and an active member of the garden (and was on the garden committee during the garden establishment phase).
How does the garden link with other activities of the church?
Some of the ways that the garden connects with other parts of the life of the church are:
- When gardeners there on a Sunday, they often join in morning tea with the congregation.
- The church is planning a church fete in October, with the garden group to be involved.
- There are also plans for a harvest festival.
- A couple of gardeners now come to church occasionally.
Who is involved in the garden, and what community partnerships have been involved?
Open days at the garden have been known to attract up to 80 people. Several church members are actively engaged in the garden, and others enjoy produce from the garden – sometimes using their knowledge of preservation techniques.
What are the funding needs of the garden and where does the funding come from?
The church has not incurred any significant costs in hosting the garden. Water use has been minimal, so the church has not charged the garden group for that. Donations of manure, tools and equipment have helped along the way.
What challenges were faced in establishing the community garden, and how were these addressed?
Church members initially expressed concerns about insurance, and tidiness of the garden, but the early contact and connections with the community garden group and a clear memorandum of understanding addressed these concerns.