How it all began: Okeover Community Garden
Kakariki Environment Club first proposed the idea of starting a community garden on campus in late 2000. Although both the University’s Facilities Advisory Committee and its Landscape Sub Committee supported having a community garden on campus in principle, they could not recommend a suitable site. The proposal sat on the back burner for 2001, but in 2002 it was re-ignited and a new proposed site was approved by all appropriate committees and the Vice-Chancellor’s Office by mid-year.
A group of interested people gathered to start making the garden a reality. At a planning day in winter 2002, we discussed the values, principles, and activities to guide the community garden, deciding our objectives were to:
- Design a community garden according to permaculture principles;
- Construct the community garden to provide a shared garden, with the option of individual allotments in the future;
- Accommodate as much as possible all staff, students, and other people related to the University of Canterbury who are interested in the community garden;
- Manage the garden using organic gardening methods;
- Reduce-reuse-recycle wherever possible;
- Provide free food for garden volunteers to take home;
- As food supplies increase, provide free food to students suffering financial hardship;
- Provide the opportunity through the garden for increasing interaction amongst staff and students;
- Host educational workshops on topics such as self-sufficiency, home composting, and organic growing;
- Provide a means for composting some of the University’s landscaping and food waste;
- Celebrate the changing seasons (e.g., harvest festivals).
Over the winter, a dedicated group of staff, students, and families of staff and students worked to prepare the site, including moving a number of fences. In September, we built the main vegetable raised beds in a mandala shape made out of old terracotta roofing tiles. Valuable help was received in the early stages from the Grounds Department and other members of Facilities Management. Financial assistance came from Facilities Management, a grant to Kakariki from the Community Trust, and to Kakariki from UCSA.
To celebrate our first spring planting season, we had an organic barbeque and open day in late September, attended by over 200 staff and students. Most of the organic food and drink was provided at low cost or donated by local organic suppliers, and people also enjoyed live music from singer/guitarist Penelope Swales, courtesy of Paul Kean from UCSA.