Winton NZ


Winton Community Garden Update - 30th May 2023

The Winton Community Gardens (WCG) has just finished its 7th growing season. It all started back on 17 August 2016 when a group of volunteers gathered at a meeting convened by Robin Bye, Louise Faithful and Michelle McMath. From that initial meeting, a committee was formed consisting of the following people: - Craig Flynn, Suzy Buckley, Mark Taylor, Peter Wilson, Norm Cox, Bruce Fraser, Craig Drain and Michelle McMath. The committee decided the aim of the new community garden would be to provide vegetables to needy families, senior citizens, the Winton food bank and other community members.

The garden would also be utilised for teaching workshops and other similar events as well as providing social opportunities for those involved. From the outset we had organised a group of volunteers into a committee, we had more than enough enthusiasm, all we needed now was some land.

In October 2016, a piece of land that was initially suggested to us by the Community Board was deemed no longer available once the Board discovered it was leased out to a local farmer for the next 5 years. Craig Flynn, co-manager of Winton Mitre10, mentioned a small block of land next to the Mitre10 car park that was private land donated to the Community Board for the construction of the Winton Walkway.

Craig thought it would be suitable for 5 or 6 large raised beds. With no other options available at the time, we went for it. The Community Board had no problem with us using it, so development began immediately, with Craig Flynn managing the project. In December 2016, after the construction of the raised beds at Mitre10, Roy Sloane, manager at Ravensdown had heard about our plight in sourcing an adequate site for a community garden and, subsequently, offered us 2,000 square meters of a paddock next to their Winton facility. A lease was subsequently signed and we began fencing off the area in January 2017, and since then the volunteers have been working away like champions growing the best vegetables they can for others to enjoy.

The Winton Community Gardens would not have been possible without the generous support of the local businesses; the Winton community, as a whole, has been very supportive of the endeavour, as was evident, up until recently, on the WCG Facebook Page.

Since the pandemic, there has been a noticeable decline in the interest shown by the Winton community in the work of the Winton Community Gardens. There may be several reasons for this, some of which may have yet to become clear, but at this stage the current committee (consisting of Mark Taylor, Bruce and Janice Fraser, Ken and Mary Galt, Louise Faithful, Norm Cox, Phil Morrison, Marj Baker, and Jill Strang) has been questioning the usefulness and effectiveness of the community gardens in meeting the needs of the Winton community.

As lockdowns went into effect in 2020 to slow the spread of the coronavirus, reports and studies have emerged of a global gardening boom, with flowers, vegetables and herbs sprouting in backyards and on balconies around the world. I personally witnessed during the lockdowns people within Winton creating backyard vegetable gardens where gardens had not existed prior to the pandemic. Why did so many people find themselves being pulled toward the earth in a time of crisis? And what sort of effect did gardening have on them?

“The Conversation” (The Conversation Australia and New Zealand is a unique collaboration between academics and journalists that is a leading publisher of research-based news and analysis) conducted a survey in 2022 using an online questionnaire to survey more than 3,700 respondents who primarily lived in the U.S., Germany and Australia. The group included experienced gardeners and those who were new to the pursuit. More than half of those surveyed said they felt isolated, anxious and depressed during the early days of the pandemic.

Yet more than 75% also found immense value in gardening during that same period. Whether done in cities or out in the country, gardening was almost universally described as a way to either relax, socialize, connect with nature or stay active. More than half of the respondents reported a significant increase in the amount of time they were able to spend gardening. Other respondents found some value in growing their own food, but few felt financially compelled to do so. Instead, most respondents saw gardening as a way to connect with their community and get some exercise.

So, has a similar proportion of people in Winton rediscovered the benefits of growing their own fruit and vegetables on their own property and no longer see the requirement for a community garden? Perhaps there is something else that is influencing the community’s perception of a communal garden? The WCG committee needs to be out and about within the Winton community asking people questions like these and listening intently to their answers. The committee, who are also the managers and maintainers of the gardens, need to understand what the community is thinking, and what their needs are, because, at the end of the day, it will be the community that decides whether or not there is a future for the Winton Community Gardens.

Therefore, do not be surprised if you find yourself being asked for your thoughts on the local community garden by one, or more, of the members of the WCG committee. Don’t hold back or try to be polite; be open and honest. If you can’t wait to be asked, add a comment on our Facebook Page (Winton Community Gardens NZ). The WCG Committee look forward to engaging with you and wish to thank you for your support during the last seven years. It’s been an amazing adventure!

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