Published On: 1 October 2021Categories: Stories

A thriving community farm within the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens in Hobart is helping Loaves and Fishes Tasmania to feed our State’s most vulnerable.

Tucked into a corner of the sprawling grounds, The organic garden annually produces one-and-a-half tonnes of sensational fruit and vegetables for use by Loaves and Fishes in its emergency food relief work.

However, the grounds serve a much wider purpose of educating Tasmanians on how to grow food at home, providing work experience for trainees, and providing herbs for the Botanical Gardens’ on-site restaurant.

They also serve as a stunning backdrop for the long-running ABC Television series, Gardening Australia, where a broader audience has learned to fall in love with gardening and Tassie produce.

A team of volunteers lovingly tends the garden each week, harvesting and delivering what’s in season to the Loaves and Fishes warehouse in Glenorchy where it’s sorted, packed and delivered to dozens of agencies for distribution to those doing it tough.

Tony Heath

Tony Heath (pictured) has been volunteering at the gardens on behalf of Loaves and Fishes since he retied from fulltime work seven years ago. Tony, 73, from New Town, spends a few hours every Thursday at the gardens, and delivers the harvested produce to the Glenorchy warehouse.

A portion of the produce is sent to Devonport where it’s converted into ready-to-eat meals before being delivered to community agencies or collected for use in hampers to feed those in crisis.

Tony, who formerly owned the Republic Bar and Cafe, started volunteering with Loaves and Fishes in the warehouse, but happily transferred to the gardens where he works along Friends of the Gardens.

The gardens have been helping feed vulnerable Tasmania for about 12 years, although the land has been producing food for more than two centuries. The current food bowl was Hangan’s Farm in the 1800s before serving up fresh fruit and vegetables to Governors and their guests.

The community garden started modestly as Pete’s Patch in the 1980s for then host Peter Cundall to film the original ABC Gardening Australia segment.

The gardens exploded in size and harvest in 2013 when a Tasmanian Community Fund grant enabled the community gardens to be redeveloped into the stunning site now enjoyed by tens of thousands of visitors each year.

The site now boasts a community meeting room, toilets, seating, and paths winding through arbors, archways, vegetable patches and an orchard, the perfect balance of form and function.

mighty mick

Horticulturist Adam Lancaster (pictured), who manages the site on behalf of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, said the original plan was for different community groups to manage separate plots, but there wasn’t enough to do on a regular basis to keep people engaged.

“A core team of volunteers now manages the site. They are totally self-sufficient, knowing what has to be done all year round and harvesting the crops.

“It’s a totally organic and closed loop system, with no fertilisers and all waste going to make compost to grow the next season of produce.”

By Paul O’Rourke

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