2011, our growing year

A look back over SAGE’s progress in 2011 by our President Stuart Whitelaw.

As the end of 2011 comes around the corner, it is time to take stock of yet another jam packed year of growth for SAGE. Growth of membership, growth of skills and plant knowledge, and growth of actual stuff you can eat.

Rather than do a chronology of the year, let’s look at some of the main areas of the SAGE site as they are now, and use that as a springboard into what has happened and the exciting events of next year.

Our simple tool shed and propagation house expanded with a new lean to. This will be our vegetable washing, cleaning and packing area. It was recently sheltering about one thousand garlic bulbs hanging to dry. We have since cleaned and sorted them into next year’s seed (the most perfect, largest corms), corms for plaiting and those for sale as bulk garlic. There is finally something more beautiful to my eyes than a stack of seasoned firewood — a roof hung with garlic!

Tubs of harvested and sorted garlic prepared for sale

Wonderful organic garlic

SAGE members learn how to plait garlic from a local garlic-growing expert

A quick "how to" demonstration from a local expert and SAGE members were plaiting garlic like pros

Our “polehenge” is getting its beams ready for the roof cladding. We will then have over 100 square metres for rainwater collection. The tandoor has been placed on its brick base and will soon be insulated and rendered. Look forward to tandoor treats and pizzas in the new year.

The covered outdoor learning area (COLA) is really taking shape, with the roof about to go on

Almost ready for the roof

The accessible garden beds are working well and producing good amounts of food for the Eurobodalla Healthy Living group. At the suggestion of one of the regular users of the accessible garden, we started investigating the possibility of installing an accessible toilet for those users who are in a wheelchair. It is difficult enough to get to the garden let alone have the hassle of having to get back into the car to use a toilet.

The SAGE Block 6-bed rotation garden has been improved to allow easy disabled access and are constructed with appropriate dimensions for wheelchair bound members to reach the centre

The 6-bed rotation gardens have been modified for better accessibility

Council has been very supportive of our approaches and we hope to submit a Development Application in the New Year. It would be good to have the facility available for the weekend of the Southeast HARVEST Festival in March.

A SAGE member displays an enormous and healthy broccoli plant

The quality of veg raised organically at SAGE

The wicking beds are installed and working well. We will be planting more out to have crops ready for March next year. The remainder of the SAGE Block at the western end of the site is still a work in progress, with some useful perennial species planted out (hazelnut, fig, mulberry, passionfruit) and more to go after the rainwater tanks are installed.

The main vegetable beds are now fully planted out to our summer crops of corn, beans and pumpkin. The blueberries are settling in on the eastern end and future perennial beds may include rhubarb and asparagus.

A number of blueberry bushes were planted and will be harvested after a couple of seasons getting established

The blueberries will not be harvested in the first season, to help them get established first

The orchard trees have really appreciated the rain and should bear well next year. The enclosure can’t come soon enough.

If the physical side of SAGE is powering along, the workshops and community engagement side is also booming. We have had monthly workshops on a great variety of topics including hay bale compost bins, wicking bed theory and practice as well as several site visits, most recently to the Old Mill Road organic farm at Turlinjah.

We have started supplying some community groups with food on a regular basis, and hope to expand this in 2012.

The newsletter has been forwarded to groups across the south east and beyond, and is universally acclaimed.

Sage has also been actively mentoring other community gardening groups, including Tuross, Narooma, Yass and Queanbeyan. Our involvement has also helped or inspired other regional projects, such as the new Eurobodalla “Food and Art Guide”, the South East Food project, The Eurobodalla 2030 Plan, the Southeast HARVEST and Riverfeast, and many others.

The South East Food project will be the basis for the producers of the greater south east region to access more of the local market through a more co-ordinated approach, and give buyers better year round access to low food mile produce.

The SAGE recipe book is printer ready and will be published early in 2012. It is a professional production with great recipes on every page. A must have for every kitchen on the South Coast. The launch will most likely co-incide with the Southeast HARVEST festival in March.

The cover of SAGE's new recipe book "Cooking through the seasons", with recipes contributed by SAGE members

Available in early 2012

It is very likely that we will have another Open Day on the Sunday of the Southeast HARVEST festival, and it promises to be even larger than our mast where over one thousand people gathered for food, gardening talks and music.

It is astonishing how quickly SAGE has become one of the most recognised groups working in sustainability in NSW. Thanks to the support of our members, the local business community, the Eurobodalla Shire Council and our executive who have been most effective in actually doing real things. That is the point of difference that we have. We not only communicate, hold workshops and open days, we also produce food, and learn as we do so.

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