PermaPatch Community Garden - a place to share, learn, grow things, play and enjoy living sustainably - is hosted by Chatswood South Uniting Church.
PermaPatch is a community garden, run on permaculture principles, which is hosted by Chatswood South Uniting Church on what used to be a tennis court. PermaPatch is for the community – it’s a place to share, learn, grow things, play and enjoy living sustainably.
How did the garden come about?
It all started towards the end of 2008. A husband of a parishioner had the idea to establish a community garden on the tennis court site, and approached the church minister and church council for support. Flyers were handed out in the local community, and connections made with Permaculture Sydney North, who were keen to be involved in the project. A permaculture teacher ran a community gardens course for the garden group. Working bees started in mid 2009, a committee and working groups were formed in September and the garden became a legal entity, and the first open day was held in October of that year.
Why did the church get involved?
The church has building local community as a mission focus, working for the well-being of the world. The church also seeks to acknowledge and care for God’s gifts of creation. Community gardens are well suited to these aims.
What goes on at the garden?
Regular working bees are held at the garden, as well as monthly open days, and monthly workshops focusing on topics such as composting, water care in the garden, companion planting, and growing food on balconies. Communal garden beds have been constructed, a fence has been erected (PermaPatch wants to have chickens one day!), and there are plans to build individual beds.
What is the organisational structure of the garden?
PermaPatch runs the community garden, and has a memorandum of understanding with the church regarding the use of the land. A liaison person from the church is an active member of the garden.
How does the garden link with other activities of the church?
Several church members are actively involved in the garden, and some help by contributing to afternoon tea. Other ways that the garden connects with the life of the church include:
- The church hosted a polling booth on election day in August 2010. Parishioners and PermaPatch members took the opportunity to run a fete together on this day. The church and PermaPatch are thinking about holding a second fete, which would further develop their relationships with each other as well as reach out to the local community.
- A handful of PermaPatch members shared lunch with parishioners after a harvest festival
- An idea for the future is that the congregation could worship occasionally in the garden
Who is involved in the garden, and what community partnerships have been involved?
PermaPatch has about 60 members. Permaculture North has been strongly involved in the development of the garden. Lane Cove Council has been very supportive, and has given encouragement, resources and donations. As the garden develops, other groups who use the church buildings (e.g. playgroup) may get involved. PermaPatch also hopes to develop educational opportunities for children and to involve other childcare and school groups.
What are the funding needs of the garden and where does the funding come from?
PermaPatch employs reuse principles (e.g. old doors and windows for garden structures), which minimises materials costs. Lane Council donated a tool shed and money for tools. Several local businesses have also donated time, funds and materials, including Coleman and Fairburn, Kimbriki Eco Garden and Sign-a-rama. The church provided money from sales proceeds to build a fence around the garden, but otherwise has not incurred any significant costs in hosting the garden.
What challenges were faced in establishing the community garden, and how were these addressed?
About 12 months of legwork was required before anything could actually be built at the garden. This included seeking approval from the Heritage Council (because the church is a heritage listed site), consulting with Lane Cove Council regarding the same, and getting Presbytery approval for the MOU between the church and Permapatch. While these processes slowed things down, they didn’t lead to real difficulties.
Community projects and partnerships typically face challenges in terms of reconciling different ideas and personalities, and this has also been PermaPatch’s experience. However, working with such tension yields creative results and is also important for building broad community ownership and involvement.
An ongoing issue has been accessing money for the establishment and development of the garden. A combination of donations of money and time, reuse of materials, and the development of experience and expertise with fundraising and grant writing have all helped to meet these challenge.