Productive community gardens are evidence of a thriving team at the New Start Gardens in Saxton Rd, New Plymouth.
Since last spring Tui Ora kaimahi and tangata whaiora from a range of community groups including people supported by the Mental Health and Addictions Services have been weeding, constructing, planting and harvesting. They meet at the site, adjacent to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, each Tuesday morning.
One of the garden sheds sports a colourful exterior paint job, courtesy of a client from the Vocational Support Service, and other clients who volunteer in the gardens have the chance to take home produce.
Nadja Bernhardt from the Activity Based Recovery Programme has noticed a positive effect on the mood of tangata whaiora when they are in the gardens.
“Taking part in the activity offers participants opportunities to learn new things; to socialise with peers in a peaceful and tranquil setting and also to give back to their community by being involved in maintaining the gardens.
“It is awesome to see how this environment inspires participants to share personal experiences and knowledge and encourages healthy lifestyle choices. One day when sowing seeds inside the hothouse one participant started to tell the Māori story of creation and emphasised the importance of being in touch with Papatuanuku. A conversation started amongst the group about how our health is closely linked to the environment we live in.”
Exploring is another important part of the activity, she says. Participants and coordinators often discover unknown vegie plants when wandering through the gardens. “Recently we discovered the native plant called Kamo Kamo, a traditional Māori squash, and this led to an exchange of recipe ideas amongst the group.”
Liz from Pathways, another community organisation using the garden, says there can be up to 20 people spread out across the garden on a Tuesday.
“We all work at whatever we fancy, in an area we chose. It’s interesting to work together and around each other.”
One Tui Ora client was breaking up dormant strawberry plants so other tangata whaiora could take a seedling home. It was her first day in the garden, but she said she loved the activity. “I like to get out there and know about new things I haven’t done before.”
Another two men were chatty and open as they planted sweetpeas. One is unable to develop a garden at his rental property because of strident rules about such things, so was relishing the chance to get his hands in the soil.
The garden’s excess produce is also helping feed tangata whaiora with vegie parcels made up for those supported by Tui Ora services. The produce is seasonal and can include silverbeet, beetroot, and other leafy greens.