Over the past few months I have been assisting the regional community to develop a Sunshine Coast Community Garden Network, with the support of the Sunshine Coast Council and the University of the Sunshine Coast. I was actually surprised to find out how many community gardens there actually are across the region now - the estimate is over 50. The movement has really taken off!
The university did a study earlier this year to see how the community gardens are going, to find out what's working well and what issues they are facing. There were a few common challenges being faced, so based on this research, I designed a series of workshops to address the needs identified by the garden members.
The three core areas were:
- Building Community: In this first session at Yandina Community Garden, we spent time getting to know each other's projects, building our broader community of support. We also explored a whole range of topics including how to attract volunteers and keep them engaged, building a great community culture at the garden, making decisions well, being inclusive and transparent.
- Building Soil: I have found that community gardens are typically located quite poor soil and in order to get gardens flourishing, the groups need to activate the soil life first. This second session, held at the Moving Feast Garden at the Uni, focussed on the many ways soil health can be improved simply, safely and affordable in a community setting.
- Building Resilience: The final session at Buddina Community Garden zoomed in on how to create financial sustainability in community gardens including fundraising, crowd-funding, enterprise development, memberships, educational programs, and grants, but more importantly creating a strong local social ecology that helped to meet the needs through a gift economy. This is central to the success of most community garden projects.
The final session also explored how we wanted to move forward as a group and the Sunshine Coast Community Gardens Network was formed. We will meet quarterly to share ideas, strategies and resources. Each time we will meet at another garden to learn from their design, community processes innovations and gardening methods. There will be an open Facebook group developed soon so everyone can see what's happening, with information too the Sunshine Coast Community Hub website.