Growing the community

SAGE awarded Champion of the Catchment!

South East Landcare, Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority, and the Eurobodalla Landcare groups awarded Landcare and other community groups for the tremendous efforts they put into caring the environment and promoting sustainable agriculture / horticulture. The award was the Eurobodalla Landcare Champions of the Catchment.

On Wednesday, 19 June 2013, a dinner was held at Batemans Bay to recognise and acknowledge these groups. And guess what? SAGE was presented with a beautiful wooden plaque, certificate and $50 book voucher for being one of five Champions of the Eurobodalla Catchment!! Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority (SRCMA) board member Kerry Pfeiffer spoke glowingly about our work and what a wonderful thing SAGE has created.

The other four Champions are – Deua Rivercare Group, Friends of the Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens, Akolele Coastcare and Broulee/Mossy Point Dunecare. Each of the groups gave a brief presentation of the wonderful work they do (read the SAGE presentation below).

 
SAGE Champion representatives (from left) Geoff , Judy, Wendy, Adrian, Sandra, Alison and Penny

Then, on Thursday 20 June, there was a bus tour of some of the winning sites, which ended at SAGE. Tina Clare and her mum Shirley served up a wonderful lunch of soup and pizzas (despite the pizza hood on the tandoor collapsing) to about 20 people. They used pumpkins grown at SAGE and produce purchased from the SAGE Farmers Market. Lunch was followed by a tour of the garden led by Peter Gow, Penny Cook and Geoff Scott.

The tour of the SAGE garden

So now we will have to build a trophy wall in the ‘house’ because obviously this is only the beginning!!

Congratulations and well done to all you champions!!

SAGE presentation at Champion of the Catchment event (transcript – without the images)

SAGE – Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla – Moruya Community Garden

SAGE was born out of the first Slow Food Celebration in Moruya when it was felt that a demonstration site would really benefit the community. The land is Council owned and zoned for community gardens. In 2009 a small group of people got together and formed a committee which created SAGE – Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla. Our aims included improving local food security and sustainable farm practices, encouraging more people to become food literate through demonstration and education, and community involvement. Since its inception SAGE has been well supported by local organisations and businesses, in particular, Eurobodalla Shire Council and Landcare, who have donated many resources and time to our cause.

Originally the land was covered in blackberries and phragmites and a lot of hard work was done to prepare it for cultivation. We drew up a plan which includes a ‘house’ block, with demonstration ‘back yard’ to show how food can be easily produced in a home garden.

The back yard includes a six-bed rotation garden area and some wicking beds to demonstrate water conservation when growing vegetables. The plan also includes an orchard and 30 semi-commercial garden rows with the idea of demonstrating food production on a larger scale. As well, a small area of land was dedicated to allotments which have been taken up by SAGE members and are extremely productive. However, it was always agreed that the bulk of the SAGE site should be for education and demonstration.

One of SAGE’s main aims is to ‘grow the grower’ which will ensure greater food security for our local area. The commercial rows provide a good demonstration of local food production and to date this has resulted in the establishment of four new food producers who are now providing food for local consumption.

We have a working bee each month where members can come and be involved in the food production going on at SAGE at that time. There is also a ‘front garden’ attached to the SAGE house which some members are concentrating their efforts on.

At most working bees we hold an ‘education spot’ where something of interest is demonstrated or talked about. Children are very welcome at SAGE and we have developed play areas for them in the house garden, as well as opportunities for them to get their hands in the soil. Future plans also include bush tucker and medicinal herb gardens.

Education is one of the main aims of SAGE and since 2009 our program has increased enormously. Now we offer at least one workshop/demonstration/excursion per month in a diverse range of subjects – specific vegetable production, compost making, correct use of tools, soil science, fruit tree care and production, home vegetable garden planning and creation, seed collecting and raising, harvesting and cooking produce, value adding (preserves, food drying, paper manufacturing), wicking beds, watering systems, Biodynamics, permaculture and all areas of organic food production. We have partnered with the local TAFE to provide land for the Organic Food Production course and have hosted many visits from the students of local schools.

SAGE has established the South East Harvest Festival which is held every 18 months.

This festival celebrates the diversity of food production in our area and includes a day of demonstrations and exhibitions by local food producers, which culminates in the River Feast highlighting the local food of that particular season. Jackie French is the patron of the festival and Costa Georgiadis will be enthusiastically attending this year for the second time.

SAGE also holds an open day at least once a year where people can visit the site to see demonstrations, and listen to talks by local producers, scientists and food enthusiasts.

On the first of January 2013 the SAGE Farmers Market was established. Every Tuesday afternoon local producers (including SAGE) gather in Riverside Park, Moruya to sell local produce. This has very quickly become one of the most popular markets in our area and most producers report sell-outs each week. SAGE also regularly supplies vegetables to a number of local restaurants.

We see one of our most important roles as being an integral part of, and contributing to our community. To that end SAGE donates vegetables to a number of community groups on a weekly basis. As well, we host groups of people with a disability and isolated members of our community who come to the SAGE garden weekly and are assisted in all areas of vegetable growing. These people obviously enjoy their time at SAGE and everyone has a lot of fun.

From small beginnings in 2009, SAGE now has over 200 members who are passionate about, or have an interest in local food production.

Our members are as diverse as the types of plants that can be grown, and bring to our community expertise in many different areas. Our plan for the next five years is to build on what we have so far established, and to increase the community’s awareness of what they are eating and where it comes from. We also want to ensure that we are relevant to our members and the local community, while always striving for local food security and sustainability.

Written by Penny Cook

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