Greenthumbs of Maffra rejoice — the town will soon join Sale, Heyfield and Loch Sport in boasting its very own community garden.
Earmarked for the corner of Princess and Alfred Sts — an old tip site — the Maffra Community Green Space will be a community-owned and operated initiative, with a little helping hand from Central Gippsland Health to get established.
The goal for the space is to improve the health and wellbeing of the local community through increasing access to and building knowledge of healthy, sustainable, local food.
The garden will also increase opportunities for physical activity and social connection.
Lily Tatterson, health promotion officer at Central Gippsland Health, served on the Seed Community Garden committee, helping to grow the garden into the successful community enterprise it now is on the edge of Sale’s lakes Guthridge and Guyatt.
Ms Tatterson works primarily in prevention, helping people become healthier by examining areas where Wellington Shire has poor health outcomes, and turning them on their head to create an uptake of healthy behaviours, as well as ensuring environments that residents live, work, learn and play in are as conducive to good health as they can be.
The health promotion worker said Wellington Shire’s population was below the state average on vegetable consumption, and above the state average for drinking sugary beverages every day.
Community gardens can provide a solution to this problem, as they have been proven to have numerous health benefits, according to Ms Tatterson.
“They help mental health through bringing people together over shared interests, they increase people’s vegetable consumption, and gardening is a great way to get physical activity,” she said.
As well as having a degree in community development and sustainable development under her belt, Ms Tatterson has a great relationship with the Seed committee, which boasts a great wealth of knowledge and experience in establishing and maintaining community gardens.
The journey has only just begun, with meetings with council regarding procuring the site and planning approval, while Maffra Business and Tourism Association has agreed to be the garden’s auspicing body for grant applications.
Ms Tatterson recently secured about $5000 in funding from Connect Well, with the help of Sam Forbes and Mick Kenny at Elbow Community Building, to employ local garden designer Liz Filmer to draw up some plans to then use in grant and funding applications.
Once plans are received, Ms Tatterson and a newly-formed committee will begin applying for larger grants.
About 20 residents attended an online meeting last month, where plans for the site were discussed, and information on how people could be involved was shared.
An online survey asking residents what they wanted to be included also received a substantial response.
Ms Tatterson credited Maffra Secondary College teacher Sally Tatterson with building interest for the green space and creating the Maffra Community Garden Group Facebook group.
The site does pose some challenges: given the prospective site is an old tip, nothing edible can be planted in the ground, so everything will be in raised beds and pots.
Seed Community Garden is also on an old tip site, so Maffra Green Space will look to it for inspiration.
Ms Tatterson said another issue was the size of the land.
“It is massive,” she said.
“What we want to do is to divide it into different zones, with the community garden being zone one, and we are open to ideas for the other two zones, possibly a second and third,” Ms Tatterson said.
“The reason we want to split it is because to have the whole space as a community garden would be a lot to manage.
“Our thoughts around the other zones were to have something inclusive, for young and old and all abilities to enjoy, possibly to encourage physical activity or to act as a meeting or gathering space for the community.”
Now, Ms Tatterson will begin meeting with people interested in joining the committee, and begin to finalise plans, before applying for more funding.
“Hopefully before the end of the year we’ll be able to break ground and start making some great progress,” she said.
“Our vision for the space is that it’s beautiful and something the community can be proud of, and that it’s inclusive so that anyone from any culture, age, background, or gardening ability can feel welcome.
“And, of course, we want to help improve the community’s health and wellbeing.”
Anyone willing to donate their time or resources to the garden should phone Ms Tatterson on 5143 8844, or email firstname.lastname@example.org