Tucked away on Richmond Avenue is a place where Taupo residents are encouraged to get their hands dirty.
The fruit trees are full of spring blossom, the strawberries are starting to ripen, and there’s an abundance of silver beet and kale just waiting to be harvested. Very soon tomato plants, zucchini, peas and beans will begin to climb skywards and – hopefully – an influx of new volunteers will join in the fun.
Taupo Community Gardens Trust Chairperson Anja Schaar has put her heart and soul into raising the organisation’s profile in recent years and is excited to finally be in a position to grow and expand its reach.
BayTrust has granted $5000 for a new programme coordinator to be recruited. They will oversee the community gardens and organise further promotion and public workshops.
“Everybody was excited when I said we got the grant,” Anja explains. “These are the first funds we’ve received in a long time so it’s great to now be able to hire a part-time coordinator so the Trust itself can grow.
“We have so many ideas of what we can do but doing it all on a voluntary basis is too hard. We just need someone to take the lead. If we can grow the number of volunteers and promote the place a lot more, we can then offer more workshops to the general public.”
The community garden was launched in 2009 by Andrew Lilburn, Mela Herbert, Amanda Green, Charlotte Pearsall, Fiona Donald and Steve Jackson who wanted to bring Taupo residents together and work on an eco-friendly project.
“Our mission is to create ‘a place where we meet, learn, garden, look after each other and the earth.’ We also aim to be an education centre for sustainability. The community garden is about growing produce but it’s also about learning and getting together.”
Fruit tree pruning workshops are held every winter and the Trust offers basic composting workshops once a month between October and March which are free for Taupo residents. “We want to reduce waste and look after our planet and composting is one way we can all reduce rubbish. Of course composting is also great for the garden as it conditions and fertilises the soil.”
Community garden volunteers also take compostable waste from Taupo sports events and festivals like Wanderlust. “We’re trying to work with other event organisers to have their organic waste come to us. Some of them send their waste to Auckland which just makes no sense. We would love to have more kitchen waste to process, so again, that’s something our new coordinator will be able to organise.”
The Trust hopes to eventually become self-sufficient by embracing social enterprise to generate a small income from its activities. Anja says this new funding grant is a great “kick start” to move in that direction.
The new role will be advertised shortly and will involve 10 hours a week but Anja says there’s plenty of potential to expand in future.
“If you want to have a little plot for yourself, you have to help in the communal area too. Our new coordinator will help organise this and ensure things run smoothly so all volunteers can work together happily side by side.”
People who grow specific items are able to harvest them for their own use, while any communal surplus is donated to Taupo’s Foodbank. “We would like to supply hospice and local soup kitchens in future. At the moment that’s not happening because we’re short on volunteers but I hope that changes as more people get involved.”
There are 15 eager gardening volunteers at present, and seven trustees who help run the organisation. Anja hopes a new website will be launched in 2019 so more Taupo residents can grow nutritious, organic food together.
“We’d love to have more people come down and get involved. There’s always something to be done and a lot of fun to be had.”