By Steve Burton and Jackie van der Neut
Under brilliant Autumn sunshine (after the best rain the Border has had in months!), a group of keen gardeners and onlookers arrived at Lemke Rd, Gateway Island, Wodonga for a Seed Savers event – a tour of the Albury Wodonga Community Farm visit lead by Tilak, resplendent in his Parklands Albury Wodonga official uniform.
Tilak is the overseer and coordinator of this local multicultural facility having completed his Diploma in Organic Gardening locally a while back. In his multifaceted role, Tilak ensures the wheels keep turning with the various ethnic groups who participate growing a wide range of vegetables and herbs not readily available locally. Everyone was very interested in the different varieties being grown, most of which are common in the countries the different groups come from.
Okra, snake beans, a wide range of chillies, and a number of other exotic plants were thriving in the various 5m x 5m garden beds. It’s a one bed per family set up – no matter what size the family. There are plans for expansion and development of more garden beds and infrastructure in the near future as demand grows for growing space. Who successfully ‘wins’ which garden plot is determined by the age-old multi-cultural method of drawing names out of a hat! It’s the only fair way to allocate, Tilak pointed out, because everyone would like to be close to the central tap.
While most of the food is consumed by the families who grow it, much of the excess food grown is given to local charities, sold at the Farmers Market or on Facebook. A truly great community project with many positive physical and psychological spin-offs for those involved, including many refugees who have made Australia their home.
Seed Savers presented Tilak with a copy of the Seed Savers Handbook by Michel and Jude Fanton as a thank you for showing us around and sharing stories of his migration and how the garden works. A future plan is to look at selling excess produce at the farm gate, so keep an eye out.
Big thanks to Steve and Jackie for this article and to Paul Smith for the terrific photos.