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Seedlings planted at St Luke's Community Garden for Spring Carnival

St Luke’s Uniting Church Belmont, in the Hunter Presbytery, has started a new community garden, which is open to all.  Through the garden, the church wants to connect with the local community and to do something to practical to care for the Earth.

St Luke’s Uniting Church Belmont has started a new community garden, which is open to all.  The first seedlings are in the ground in the time for the church’s 2010 Spring carnival.

How did the garden come about?

The community garden was the idea of a couple of church council members. They approached a member of the congregation to research and coordinate the development of a community garden on a vacant block within the church grounds. The research consisted of establishing a group of interested church members, visiting local gardens within the Newcastle and Hunter region, investigating potential set up costs and sources of funding. An application for funding was submitted to Hunter Uniting Aged Care. This submission was successful and enabled construction of the community garden to commence sooner and on a larger scale than would otherwise have been possible. The Hunter Presbytery continues to have input into developing the organisational framework for the garden.

Why did the church get involved?

St Luke’s has a mission to be a strong connector in and with the local community.  Community gardens are a great way to build community relationships.  The church also wants to do something that is practical to care for the Earth, and which has a community education focus on how to grow food sustainably.

What goes on at the garden?

The St Luke’s Community Garden is very new.  So far, there have been working bees at the garden.  Over time, it is expected that community education workshops will be developed.  St Luke’s has decided not to fence their garden, in order to make people feel as welcome as possible, and to build networks of trust in the community. 

What is the organisational structure of the garden?

The garden will be managed by the church, overseen by the church’s “Community Commission”.  A memorandum of understanding establishing the garden’s operation is in the process of being finalised. 

How does the garden link with other activities of the church?

The community garden will connect with the congregation, St Luke’s preschool, Narla Village complex and the various groups that meet on the property throughout the week. The potential to engage with a range of groups and with individuals will increase in the future, with the construction of a multi- purpose centre that is to replace the existing church halls.

Who is involved in the garden, and what community partnerships have been involved?

So far at this early stage of construction and planting, only church members have been involved in the garden.  Promotion of the community garden to the wider community has commenced with a letter box drop and small scale doorknocking in the immediate vicinity. The garden group has been consulting with Lake Macquarie City Council and Permaculture Hunter Region / Sustaining Our Suburbs project in the development of the garden.  The Council is developing a focus on building a sustainable community in Belmont, and the church hopes that there will be opportunities for stronger partnerships there. 

What are the funding needs of the garden and where does the funding come from?

St Luke’s has been awarded $12,000 under Uniting Care Ageing Hunter, Central Coast and New England Region’s Innovative Community Grants Fund to establish the garden.  Going forward, the funding needs of the garden should be relatively small. If new garden beds and/or garden structures are required more funding may be sought through other grants or from local businesses that may benefit from association with a community garden, i.e., local nurseries and hardware stores. 

What challenges were faced in establishing the community garden, and how were these addressed?

The main challenge encountered so far has been accommodating and reconciling a variety of views within the church as to what degree of structure versus flexibility the organisation/management of the garden should employ.  The final memorandum of understanding aims to making the garden flexible to welcome and encourage the community to participate, at the same time as ensuring there are checks and balances governing the use of the land and garden activities.

Once funding was received a deadline was set to have stage 1 of the garden complete by the 23rd October 2010, the date of the annual church carnival. This proved a challenging deadline to meet as a number of scheduled and non-scheduled working bees were required. These had to be planned around working bees for the church carnival. In hindsight, a longer timeframe would have been more manageable.

More information

Address: 6 Narla Rd, Belmont North, NSW 2280

Garden website: http://stlukesbelmont.org.au/community-garden/