BALCLUTHA COMMUNITY GARDEN
Only last year the Balclutha Community Garden was just an unused quarter-acre block of land with an old house on it. Now there are 12 raised beds that are helping supply local residents with an abundance of fresh, healthy food.
Friends and neighbours Beatrice Pratt and Robyn Bell are behind this amazing transformation. “We’d been hearing about community gardens and thought we could do it here. Then it just sort of snowballed,” Robyn recalls.
She describes herself as a “dead keen amateur” when it comes to gardening but she’s learnt a lot from Beatrice and the other volunteers. Despite owning and running a local café, she still manages to spend a good 10 to 15 hours a week working in the garden.
Meanwhile, Beatrice is a retired teacher and very focused on getting local children interested in growing, cooking and eating vegetables. Last summer, there was particular excitement about a kohlrabi crop as most of the children had never heard of the vegetable. “They come back with pictures they’ve drawn of the garden and we give them seeds to grow themselves,” she says.
On Saturday mornings over summer, the garden is open to locals who are welcome to get fresh produce in return for a small donation.
“If there are any veges left we take them to the senior citizens,” says Robyn. “They’re so appreciative, so that’s my reward, going there.”
There are plans for six more raised beds and 25 heritage fruit trees are on their way. Soon there should be enough crops growing to supply locals with fresh produce all year round. “We just want to get people excited about vegetables,” says Robyn.
The response they’ve had from their community so far has certainly been enthusiastic.
“To begin with, we knocked on everyone’s door asking for help and we’ve been absolutely overwhelmed,” says Beatrice. “People come up to me in the street now and give me donations. They give us plants, sacks of blood and bone, tools and advice. They’ve been fabulous.”
From left: Beatrice Pratt, Diane Bennett, Michael Catherwood, John Evans, and Gill Scarth.