It’s a joy to visit the Manning Valley Community Gardens, situated behind the Old Courthouse in Farquhar Street Wingham, and see the place buzzing with life and activity.
In August last year, gardens co-ordinator Chelsea Hands was desperate for volunteers and funding and not having a lot of luck with either. She had, and still does have, big dreams for the site, but at that time she was battling to see those dreams inch along.
A visit to the gardens nine months later and the transformation is jaw-dropping.
A mound of soil from Wingham’s Aus Eco Landscape Solutions sits on the ground, filling the air with its rather pungent pong.
Eight garden beds from Birdies Garden Products are in place and in the process of being filled with the smelly soil.
Three Vegepods are already filled with vigorously growing vegetables, with a birdhouse and a scarecrow taking pride of place nearby.
A cubbyhouse for visiting kids sits in the corner, there’s a potting bench behind the shed and a herb garden on legs in front.
There are three volunteers creating a cottage garden at the front of the building, and other workers in high vis vests shoveling the soil into the beds. Other volunteers are busy around the site.
The metamorphosis of the gardens are due to funding from a Work for the Dole project sponsored by ETC in Taree and work done by Work for the Dole participants, and discounts received from all of the suppliers of goods and services.
It’s a really good group of people. I really love my Work for the Dole guys, and I really love my volunteers, and together they really make this place.Chelsea Hands
Chelsea is immensely proud of her team of eight volunteers and four Work for the Dole participants.
“It’s a really good group of people. I really love my Work for the Dole guys, and I really love my volunteers, and together they really make this place,” Chelsea says.
“I think the Work for the Dole guys all love it. I’ve let them take ownership; I’ve done hardly any of it. I’ve really just done the paperwork side of things. So I think they’ll come back as volunteers; I think they’ll get attached to it. Like, that’s theirs, ‘I don't’ want to leave that now!’”
The project started in February this year and has given the community gardens the boost that it so sorely needed.
The produce grown goes toward Manning Valley Neighbourhood Services’ (MVNS) Food for the Heart program which provides free nutritious cooked lunches on Mondays each week from 12pm to 1pm for their clients. Produce also is included in food parcels for clients needing financial help.
If there is an overload of produce, it is put on the front counter at the Neighbourhood Centre (situated inside the courthouse) for anyone to receive for a gold coin donation. Also on the front counter are packets of flower and vegetable seeds for $1 a packet, harvested from the community garden.
Sometimes you might find marmalade, preserves, or sauerkraut on the counter available for purchase, lovingly made by Chelsea from the bounty the garden provides.
The funding for the Work for the Dole project finishes in August this year, at which stage the gardens will be well and truly established.
Once the garden beds are planted, all that is left to do is plant some more citrus trees, net the gardens and make some pathways between the beds.
“There will eventually be a little kid’s garden going around the cubbyhouse if I can get some kids involved somehow!” Chelsea adds.
For more information about Manning Valley Community Gardens call MVNS on 6553 5121, or pop in to the gardens for a visit behind the Old Courthouse on 4 Farquhar Street, Wingham.