Sustainability and connectivity are growing in the Fiordland community and that is due to a very special plot of land in the centre of Te Anau that has been transformed into a vibrant and productive community garden.
What is now the Fiordland Community Garden Charitable Trust started in 2019 as a question on a community chat group. “Andrea Staben (our former Chairperson) set the ball rolling. She put a huge amount of time and effort into bringing all the right people together and setting up the framework for the Community Garden Charitable Trust. The Trust was incorporated in June 2020, the fence was built in September and shortly after the greenhouse was installed and the garden started.” said Vanessa Horwell, Community Garden Trustee.
The mission of the Fiordland Community Garden Charitable Trust is to promote environmental awareness, sustainability, and community resilience through the medium of growing food together. This is achieved through weekly growing sessions where anyone and everyone is welcome to come and volunteer their time to help the garden grow.
The Community Garden promotes social and networking connections across all ages, gender, ability, ethnicity or education levels. The garden provides the neutral location, gardening provides the common interest, the team provide icebreaker introductions, and the work provides the joint achievement and the reason to return.
The garden has blossomed from day one with the Trust recently needing funding to build additional infrastructure including garden beds, sheds and a Kai Pantry to meet the growing needs of the garden and the community.
Two garden managers volunteer their time to oversee the garden, plan out the crops and run the weekly growing sessions. The Trust also runs workshops on a variety of topics to help locals grow their own food and connect with others. The workshops increase gardening skills building food resilience within the community, the ability to seed save, forage, grow and maximise produce grown in your own back yard. Food produced at the garden is distributed in return for volunteered time, and stocks the Kai Pantry, with the excess donated to local food banks.
Covid-19 has had a noticeable emotional and financial toll on local residents due to job losses, work reduction and the lack of tourism from border closures.
“People entering the garden in recent months have mentioned their reduced food budgets and appreciation at being able to harvest food from the garden in return for giving a helping hand. They love the idea of the project and feel the need to support us, in doing so they end up chatting with others and gain a sense of achievement.” Vanessa Horwell
With over 700 social media members and up to 20 people attending the weekly growing sessions, the community garden is thriving. The Kai Pantry has been very successful, it has enabled people to share their excess produce, and for people to obtain fresh, nutrient-dense food from the garden for a small donation if able.
It is amazing what has been achieved in less than two years.