In Australia during the 20th century, war and food shortages saw the emergence of community gardens in cities throughout the country. These days the role of a shared garden space has evolved depending on the needs (inclusion, connection, food security) of the community where they are located – and there is something incredibly special about that.
Clunes Community Garden
Blending different motivations for sharing a space and finding practical ways for those needs to be met isn’t always easy, but it can be well worth it. In recent times Clunes community garden, located in the open grounds of Clunes Neighbourhood House and the Lee Medlyn Home of Bottles, has operated as an open garden. Volunteers have maintained the garden (rather than people having private plots) and the community have been encouraged to forage, while excess produce has ended up on the #foodisfree stall or been used for the Open House meals.
Sign(s) of the Times
During the pandemic the role of community gardens really came to the fore. In the US (for example) food shortages and mile-long queues for emergency support saw an increase in the #foodisfree phenomenon; while opportunities to be out and about, and part of community drew others to want to have their own plot in a shared space.
These might be global trends, but here in Clunes we’ve been experiencing this same shift and recently had an opportunity to work together as a community to problem-solve how these two motivations might be best met.
“A client and I have been working on a bed in the open community garden,” said a local carer, “We were the only individual plot. Being a grower in this space has proved to be inclusive (just as we’d hoped), but because it’s an open garden, our produce was picked by others before we could get to it.”
“That #FoodisFree philosophy is important, but we hadn’t really expected it to mean all our produce would be gone. It could have been a real obstacle but actually, encouraged by so many people in the community, we found a really interesting way to make it work.”
Bloomin Good Idea
“We are going to maintain the bed in the open garden, but instead of growing produce there, we’ll grow flowers. If people take one or two flowers, it won’t be so disappointing for our client, and the pleasure people get will be a source of joy. Meanwhile, the Clunes Men’s Shed (where a fenced garden originally operated) have offered us an individual plot so my client can grow her own veggies.”
Healthy Community Indicator
Community gardens may have been coined in the early 20th century, but in Clunes the idea of market gardens and individual plots (once a part of the Clunes commons) dates back generations. The way gardens like this evolve is an important community marker.
“It was initially a really uncomfortable situation, but so many people helped us come up with this solution and that feels really good.”
The community garden at 70 Bailey Street is an open garden, free for foraging. If a bed is reserved for a private grower the signage will let you know. Thanks to all those involved in this story, individual plots in a fenced area are available.