From little things big things grow

Rainbow Region Community Farms president, Terry Lawrence, at Elizabeth Gardens a potential site for Lismores organic community garden.

Lismore will soon have its very own community garden. A place where people can grow and cook food together, share ideas and gardening techniques, and foster a stronger sense of community.

We are over the moon just ecstatic, said Terry Lawrence, president of the non-profit organisation Rainbow Region Community Farms (RRCF), which has pioneered the project.

RRCF was recently informed it will receive a $180,000 grant from the federal governments Department of Health and Ageing to build a community garden in Lismore, complete with an outdoor classroom and kitchen.

The group is now in discussions with Lismore City Council and is hoping they can lease land for the project. The lower half of Elizabeth Gardens (off Leycester Street) has been mooted as a perfect site and negotiations are underway.

A community meeting is being held next Saturday, February 9, to gauge the communitys feeling about the potential site and to get feedback about the concept.

Over the last week Terry has been speaking to residents around Elizabeth Gardens to discuss the project and says so far she has not received one negative response.

I was surprised by just how positive people were everyone so far is in favour of the project, Terry said. Several of the neighbours have said they want to get involved straight away and everyone has joined our email list. We even had people cheering us as we walked off down their driveway.

While the site is still under negotiation, designs for the garden, to be established in partnership with the Northern Rivers Social Development Council, are being developed.

It will feature an outdoor classroom and nursery to teach people about the principles of organic gardening as well as a kitchen where people can cook together, a childrens play area and an outdoor space where people can relax and eat.

Terry said as well as being a space where people can grow and eat fresh, healthy food, the garden will also help create a real sense of community belonging and ownership.

We want it to be a place of healing and sharing, with everyone mucking in together, said Terry. Were hoping lots of different community groups can get involved and different people can bring their ideas to the table so we can create a vibrant outdoor meeting place. Therell be opportunities to have training and workshops, and visits by school groups.

In an age where climate change is at the forefront of peoples minds, Terry said reducing food miles was also one of the main objectives.

Its very important to be able to access locally produced food as an alternative to having it flown in from the states to Melbourne and then trucked here by a B-Double, Terry said. We are hoping the garden can be centrally located somewhere within walking distance to the CBD.

Terry said RRCF will now close its Lindendale site (near Alphadale), which was a temporary pilot project. The group used the donated piece of land to trial innovative techniques for growing organic vegetables, including a no irrigation system that was highly effective.

Terry said the Lindendale garden was a great stepping stone and the group made $5,000 from the sale of produce. It also allowed them to run a successful Work-for-the-Dole program, and RRCF now has a partnership with Centrelink so people can meet their mutual obligation requirements by working in the new garden.

Some produce from the Lindendale site was donated to the Five Loaves Mobile Soup Kitchen, and Terry envisages the soup kitchen will have its own vegie patch at the new site.

The idea of a community garden was the brainchild of permaculture student and Clovass resident Carla Tipping and local organic gardener Dan Hamilton, who were inspired by the Northey Street City Farm in Brisbane a flourishing 10-acre garden established on land donated by Brisbane City Council in 1994.

Carla and Dan floated the idea in October 2006 and found widespread enthusiasm for the project, with more than 40 people turning up to the first meeting.

I think this is the start of something very special for Lismore, said Terry.

The community meeting to discuss the project and enlist more volunteers is on next Saturday, February 9, at 11am at the Red Dove Centre at 80 Keen Street, Lismore.

For more information phone Carla Tipping on 6663 1332 or 0413 179 964, or Terry on 0402 549 963.

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