Recently, a group of passionate people – from schools, local government, neighbourhood houses and community groups – came together to share ideas and inspiration to help further build Greater Bendigo’s budding community gardening network. The event was the brainchild of a teacher at Kalianna School, where students have had the opportunity to get more involved in where food comes from, and encounter things (like broccoli and broad beans!) which they may not have seen at home. Kalianna School is embedding health and wellbeing into their curriculum and programs, using their setting to champion health and wellbeing, and after two years working on the school’s community garden, the time was ripe for sharing learnings from the process of setting up and running the project.

Kalianna School Bendigo, Healthy Greater Bendigo and the City of Greater Bendigo (which supports the growing fruit and veg through Home Grown) got together to bring the event Sowing the Seeds to Success to PepperGreen Farm, hoping to inspire other organisations to get into community gardening, and share tips and insights gained from practical experience. These organisations are working to embed the idea that ‘Health is everyone’s Business‘ – it’s not just about health services and professionals, but about local government, community and education.

The Sowing the Seeds to Success event was attended by early years, primary and secondary school teachers, staff from local neighbourhood houses, volunteers and other community groups and organisations involved or interested in community gardens.

Kalianna School shared ways for schools and other organisations to get involved in the local food system by cultivating a veggie garden and creating conversations and awareness around food security in Bendigo.

A panel of local community garden experts spent the morning sharing and connecting over the possibilities that community gardens can provide, and discussed a range of different settings, including schools, churches and public spaces, which could provide potential spaces for growing food.

The event also saw the launch of the Greater Bendigo Community Garden Network, reaffirming our city and region’s commitment to learning, cooperating and supporting each other to grow, cook and share healthy local food. The event provided opportunities for attendees to ask questions and get answers from local people who are operating successful community gardens, and connect with others who could potentially support the establishment and maintenance of community gardens in the future.

An unexpected but very welcome outcome from the event was the links made between school gardens, work experience, and the local harvest workforce. After meeting at the event, Rob Brown (Kalianna VCAL) and Sally Beer (CoGB agribusiness officer) bumped into each other at the Farmer’s Market, and Sally introduced Rob to local olive farmers who have offered paid harvest jobs to VCAL students. For many, this will be their first experience of paid work, an amazing opportunity for students to get paid, get some work experience and learn new skills.

Not only are community and school gardens a great way to grow healthy food, they provide a wonderful opportunity for students to learn new skills, work with others and even more importantly, have fun and get their hands dirty!

Autumn bounty at PepperGreen Farm