Over 60 people came on my World Kitchen Garden Day walk in Cygnet, a tiny town with a population of 800!! Most were pretty local but a few had had quite a drive and I hope they found it worth their time. As I stood on a mound of grass on the edge of the Burton's Reserve carpark, holding the sign to guide people to the start of the walk, I started my spiel....
"World Kitchen Garden Day is about 2 things; growing our own food and making connections.....providing for ourselves as a community, not just as individuals..... so today we will make connections between each of us on the walk and then also with the people at the gardens we visit, so that we see the growing of food as a shared act, bringing us all together.
First, we will see what happens with the youngest in our community.... the pre-schoolers who spend some of their time at the Child Care Centre. Then we will move to the kinder at the Primary School and then to St. James Catholic School's Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden. Finally we will end up at the Community Garden where all members of the community are encouraged to come together to sow, grow and share...."
It was a good 10 minute walk to the child care centre where Alex met us and opened my eyes to what happens behind the gates there. I so wish I had taken a video. There is a garden for the 0 - 3 year olds..... herbs and flowers to smell and touch and pick, little groups of vegetables to nibble and harvest and chop up for soup lunches.... and the children are encouraged to do these things (under supervision of course).... sometimes they do it a little over-enthusiastically and replanting has to be done! Then there is a food garden for the 4 year olds.... bigger more structured... as Alex spoke, I could see people were really listening.... and then one woman said "This is so beautiful, can we donate time or money to help?" Wow. This was truly what this walk was all about and totally spontaneous.... purses and wallets opened and donations were made. After a few more minutes looking at the most gorgeous picture board, we moved on.
Next was the Cygnet Primary School's kinder where teacher Judy told us of how she had started this garden with another teacher several years ago. The children gardening here are 4 years old. They sow, grow, harvest, cook, eat and save the seeds. Think of 4 year olds doing all this... and they too are encouraged to pick and eat raw, whenever they are in the garden..... encouraged to pick anything as long as they eat it. Wonderful. What inspiring teachers...plus Helen who helps make meals from what they pick, 3 times a week. Again people on the walk wanted to become involved.... making those connections without being asked.
We moved on to St. James Catholic School where all the team had gathered to welcome us ... Ann Foale, the principal, Marcus, the programme's co-ordinator, Nicky, the garden specialist and Roy, the kitchen specialist.... plus some lovely students. It was at this point, while Marcus was explaining about the integration of the kitchen garden into everyday school life, that I realised that every child who goes to child care and/or school in Cygnet experiences growing, harvesting and eating of their own food. How many towns can boast that? Here, volunteers came forward again, wanting to be involved in this fabulous initiative.
Finally, to the Community Garden, my home patch. We walked and talked, ending up at the BBQ area for a cup of tea and some goodies, made by Liz and myself. Nearly EVERYONE stayed on for a while.... that in itself made me so happy. Bob manned the BBQ's... people chatted and guess what?? More offers of participation.... people actually wanted to come to the working bee next weekend and many hoped to make it to our weekly Tuesday morning gardening sessions.
Thanks to everyone who participated. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and that you have come away inspired to not just be solitary gardeners, but an integral part of your community.