Last week we were invited to do an interview with a much more established garden group up in Bonbeach.
Amy and Jade have a great set up, please check out their website growinggreenthumbs.com.au and there are other details at the bottom.
Here is what they sent us (in italics) and “our” answers.
“Growing Green Thumbs: our goal is to inspire and build a sustainable future for our kids and the planet through community connections. In a series of interviews, we aim to draw attention to our environment through our community’s best sustainable practices.
Who interests us? – Families’ who practice permaculture principles in their homes, business’ who promote and use sustainable practices and farmers’ who grow bio-dynamically or organically.
We think you are a great fit and would love to feature you!
Our message: We are dedicated to educating children and their families about the origins of food, the relationship we can form with nature and the joys of giving back to the earth by living sustainably.“
- How does your home, farm or business relate to our message?
We are a School Kitchen Garden focused on engagement. We have a large number of people each doing small amounts of work. We are a community.
- How would you quickly describe yourself?
We are an organically formed loose collective of parents, kids and teachers at a small school outside Melbourne. We have created a completely decentralised model where each class within the school gets to decide what they will do with their own section of the School Garden. We found a way to welcome all sorts of people into the community even if their fingers are not very green.
- What is the nature of your business, its motto and best practices?
We are not a business. No-one gets paid. We don’t really have a motto but “Growing Up Healthy” is a bit like a slogan for us.
4. Who or what inspired you to do what you do?
We were inspired by our children. The school had previously had a vibrant garden mostly driven by a few energetic teachers. When the major protagonists left, lost interest or no longer had the time the garden would fall into disrepair. Boom and bust, boom and bust. The majority of the time the brilliant teachers involved simply had less and less time to do things in the garden due the changing nature of their roles as teachers. We didn’t want it to become a little fiefdom with committees and politics and so on.
- What is your location?
Somers, on the south coast of the Mornington Peninsula looking out at Phillip Island and the Southern Ocean.
- What are your best practices for living more sustainably? Compost organic waste, use less plastics, recycling etc…
Where to start? Ours is a root and branch approach but each class group does it’s own things.
We make our own compost and worm farms process waste food.
The vast majority of our garden set up is made from recycled materials.
We use, re-use, repair and re-purpose anything.
We have interacted a lot with the science and art programs which brings in a lot of ideas and short term projects, some of which become part of our system.
We apply a lot of principles shared with permaculture and biodynamics but we are unaligned pragmatists, we pretty much had to be.
- If you grow food, how big is your growing space, what do you grow in? i.e.: raised earth beds, apple crates, containers.
Our space was significantly impacted by some new demountable classrooms in the last few years. We have a corner of the school grounds about 100 sq metres. The success of our program means that we are out growing that and we are slowly occupying other under used spaces around us. We have to be imaginative, collaborative, diplomatic and patient. It is going very well. We were well backed by the last principal who retired last year. Our new principal is fantastic. (Thanks Hugh!)
We have 12 classes in the school now after rapid growth over the last 5 years or so. Each class and the pre/post school care group has one Raised Earth Garden Bed. Each bed is made from recycled materials and built by the less green fingered souls among us.
Each bed is approx 2 metres squared. Each class forms its own plan for the garden and we help them form a team. The team involves the kids, the educational supports staff, the teacher and one or more parent volunteer.
The amount of work for each class can be tiny. The parents come and give 30-60 minutes every week or two. It is not much more time than leading a reading circle.
Around the beds we have shared areas for kids to work in, several fruit trees, compost heaps, a falling down shed or two and more.
- Why do you grow food?
Each class decides what to grow. Most of the time we grow food. We do encourage the kids to grow food producing plants but we do not dictate.
Why do we encourage food growing? We do so because we see an enormous opportunity to connect the school kids and school community with all the processes involved in bringing healthy food to the table and bringing healthy habits to our lives.
We encourage food growing as a part of a greater project focused upon reinforcing healthy living messages; being outdoors, having hands in the earth, being active, understanding how food is produced, understanding what grows locally, understanding how the food grown in the garden differ from the food available in a supermarket, understanding the work required to make what we survive on, understanding what foods are healthy and why, understanding that food is not something that comes from a factory; it is chaotic, muddy, unpredictable, labour-intensive, diverse and seasonal. By working with nature any of us can grow food.
- What do you do with the food you grow?
We share it. We have a parallel healthy eating program which uses the produce from the garden. We have a small produce stall outside assembly each Monday which is a combined healthy eating and maths project; three kids assist every week and do all the maths associated with pricing, weighing, working out individual prices and dealing with the cash takings.
- Do you use any organic, permaculture, hydroponic, bio-dynamic methods? Or keep chickens or bees?
We take from permaculture, bio-dynamics and other systems of food growth. We are almost organic but we don’t claim the label as we take donations of things like pea straw and manure which may or may not be certified organic. Any time we can choose organic substrates we do. We encourage organic processes, we promote moon-planting, we are re-purposing an old structure for a green house and we have plans to introduce chickens.
- What are the biggest rewards for you from your garden?
The Somers Primary School Kitchen Garden works like a community garden (& kitchen) based within a school. The biggest reward is the genuine community that has formed around the garden and now extends beyond it. The kids are part of families, the families are part of the community and the community is stronger and more connected due to their combined efforts.
- What is your greatest challenge in your urban farming or business endeavours?
Even though we have a very spread out work load there remains a risk that, after certain hard working personalities leave the school, the momentum could be lost. We have been planning for succession since the project was re-invigorated in the last couple of years. Recruitment has not been a problem but succession might be.
- Do you have any favourite tips to share?
Yes; Share. Share everything. Share the load. Share the benefits. Share the credit. Share the joy. Share the knowledge. Share the fruits of your labour.
- Are you involved with your community? Food is free project, community gardens, seed saving, share waste, volunteering?
Our project is 100% volunteer driven. The aim is to create a self-sustaining community garden within the school. The major projects closely associated with us would be the healthy eating program, the weekly free fruit days, the healthy lunch days once a term, the local Boomerang Bags group and several others
- What inspiring message would you like to give to the community?
You are already good enough to do what you want to do. Don’t let anyone, yourself included, hold you back. What you don’t yet know you will learn along the journey.”
Check out the Growing Green Thumbs people below;
Growing Green Thumbs
play. grow. eat. share
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