THE newly established community garden at Cundletown is designed to be more than just a place to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs.
It can also grow people and bring people together.
A project of the Manning Uniting Church and coordinated by laypreacher and qualified horticulturist Theo Van Winsen, the garden is located in Main Street, Cundletown.
A number of years ago the Cundletown congregation of the church moved its activities to the regional church in Taree and a decision was made to develop the disused church and property for community groups and programs that find difficulty accessing or affording a premises.
The idea behind the garden is to be a community place where people can come and be involved in a meaningful activity, make social connections and share with others.
Fruits, vegetables and herbs, including corn, sunflower, passionfruit, salad, cabbage, cucumber, different types of spinach, celery, parsley, tomatoes, zucchinis, radishes, bokchoy and broccoli are all being grown.
The garden beds are raised and are 1.2metres apart, giving space for a wheelchair or a pram, meaning anyone can come along and join in.
Manning Uniting Church Community Gardens has a core ethic to make the garden as organic as possible, including use of pest control.
Volunteers from different community agencies are among those giving time to work on the garden.
Theo said with many different people involved, who come with their own ideas and issues, the garden serves as a way of therapy which can help them change themselves.
"We're here to give people the opportunity to discover and to try things and to grow too.
"I always say it's still a church and we preach to the green group
"We don't grow cabbages so much - we grow people".
He said one of the men involved had never grown radishes but was asked to plant some seeds (there were 1500 in the packet), and to see how many would grow.
"He sowed 400 seeds methodically over two hours. The radishes have grown perfectly.
"It's about the joy of it and to have a focus on the community."
Volunteers get together a few times a week in the mornings, usually Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10am, to work on the garden.
"We often stop at 12 for lunch and a cup of tea or coffee and a review of what we've been doing".
Theo said they are looking for other people who can also come on board as coordinators to help in setting up and supervising activities, to demonstrate what is needed, where necessray, to support and encourage those working in the garden, to liaise with other volunteers and help them to have input into the working of the garden.
Theo himself comes from a horticultural background (he used to run a wholesale nursery and was also a teacher) and is able to help people who may not have any experience with gardening.
You can get involved by either contacting Manning Uniting Church on 6552 3850, visiting the office in Taree near Manning Mall, or garden coordinator Theo Van Winsen on 6556 9149.