More than just a garden - Coleraine Community Garden at the Community Health Centre   The idea of a vegetable garden was put forward to the Health Service by community members back in 2017. With support from the Coleraine Hospital, a working group formed and ascertained broader interest by advertising in the local 'Wannon' Newsletter, placing posters around town and using word of mouth to move the concept forward.  The working group then had to decide where to plant the veggies, so they were accessible for all, including those in mobility aides. The group decided to spread the garden over a number of spots, and started with raised planter beds alongside a pathway near the Health Service, allowing residents from the hostel or nursing home to access the garden if they wished.    Starting with these beds, the group planted five fruit trees and some herb and vegetable seedlings to get things started. Soon after, some of the native plants in a larger existing bed outside the Medical Clinic were dying, so the group took the opportunity to plant here as well, with summer pumpkin, corn and pie melon vines thriving in the space.  Since this initial planting, tomatoes, green herbs, chilli's, eggplant and loads of winter veggies have been planted and harvested. Many of these plants are thanks to donations of seeds from the community.                        The garden volunteer base remains small, but the tasks of weeding and planting new crops are manageable  as the volunteers (Kate, Julian, Dave, Rowena and Elizabeth) who work in the garden really enjoy themselves – reporting it is very social and relaxing! One of the initial working group members and garden volunteers Elizabeth Guthridge from WDHS says,  "You find you don’t have time to let the worries of your life creep in as you focus on your chores in the garden and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, and chat to the local passers by". The garden group hope to purchase one or two more fruit trees and make the garden a real focal point for community celebrations in future. Last year the gardening group encouraged the two primary schools in Coleraine to create Christmas decorations for the garden, and awarded certificates to participating children.  Ms Guthridge is happy the garden is serving its intended purposes plus some, "The Community Garden has enhanced the streetscape of Whyte Street and also the entrance to the Coleraine Medical Clinic.  The community take an interest in the vegetables planted and wander amongst the beds helping themselves to the vegetables – which is what we want".  If you have any queries about the Coleraine Community Garden, or are keen to volunteer, please contact Elizabeth Guthridge at [email protected]    What is your community group, school, club or workplace doing to promote healthy choices? Let us know about it! Email or call Ebony at [email protected] or 5551 8475. 

SGAE Hamilton have this term launched their brand new Garden to Plate program, using vegetable gardening and meal preparation to enhance language, literacy, numeracy and technology, and build skills for everyday living! It's an innovative approach to students obtaining a Certificate in Transition Education. Running one day a week for 12 months, the program is still in its infancy and welcomes more participants along for the ride.     Current Garden to Plate participants, cooks and carers; Anthony Stockwell (Chef), Vicki Hollard (Trainer) and Korey Banfield (participant), Joel Roache (participant), Sallie Glare (Mulleraterong) and Geoff Murray (participant)    This week, the Garden to Plate cohort hosted a ‘Winter Christmas’ themed lunch at HIRL, showcasing some of the fresh produce they have nurtured, and the cooking skills they’ve developed so far. Participants, families, support workers, peers, garden volunteers, SGAE Staff, and councillors gathered to learn about the program and enjoy a healthy hearty lunch! Due to the winter start, participants have been able to utilise some of the produce already flourishing in the HIRL garden whilst their own seedlings mature in the hothouse ready for planting when spring time hits. HIRL garden volunteer Glenice says it’s important for participants to embrace the whole life cycle of the plants, ‘they’re nourishing these little seedlings in the hothouse at the moment before planting, they’ll be seeing the growing process from start to finish’.                            Darren Osborn, Support Coordinator at Southern Stay Disability Services enjoyed the winter Christmas event and sees the evident value of the program, ‘the lunch was delicious, and it’s very clear that everyone involved love being a part of the program and get a lot out of it’.  Garden to Plate is much more than a gardening or cooking course, it’s about building life skills, utilising kitchen gardening to do so. Participants grow their social and organisational skills, problem solving abilities and more on top of learning about weights, measures, budgeting and shopping. If you know of someone living with a disability who might be interested in Garden to Plate, get in touch with SGAE 48 Thompson Street or on 5571 9900.     Is your organisation, club, community group or school making a change so that the healthier choice is the easier choice? Let us know about it! Get in touch with Ebony at [email protected] or 5551 8475 for support or to share your story.