Alexandra Community Garden
Alexandra Corps, Southern Division, have a massive community garden that they plant every year for their foodbank, the community, and in partnership with Te Kai Mākona (the Territorial Community Ministries Food Provision Framework). The garden produces sustainable, healthy and affordable produce for everyone.
The garden originally began operating 18 years ago, but they moved to their current council-owned land in 2020. The gardens, glass house, tunnel houses, containers and planting were set up by Alexandra Community Ministries.
Captain Logan Bathurst, corp officer at Alexandra Corp, said the garden is one of the biggest operations they run, and their aim is for it to become the hub from where all other services connect.
‘Most people think community garden in terms of a backyard or something in the back of a community house. This is quite substantial, so it’s more like a small market garden size.’
The garden has eight big plots where the vegetables grow, and a manager and a team of volunteers maintain them through the growing season.
They grow around 30 different varieties of fruits and vegetables, which covers most essential produce. Having many different varieties helps cover the difference of growth cycles in crops every year, so they always have a good supply of vegetables. Along with the garden vegetables, they also have an orchard of stone fruit.
The planting season is from October to April, with the planting day in October. Planting days are high profile in the township and even visited by the district mayor.
Veggie picking days are from January to April, where anyone can come to pick up produce for a koha (donation). On average, they see about 20 families come to their veggie picking days every week.
Any leftover produce is put into food parcels, frozen during winter, or put into the pataka (storehouse) for the community to share.
On the off-season months, they even do a firewood programme so people can purchase wood during winter at reduced prices.
Along with the plots used by Alexandra Community Ministries, there are also 16 smaller plots that are ‘community allotments’ for individuals or groups to grow their own produce.
Some of the agencies they partner with offer educational food programmes, aimed at teaching people in the community how to start their own home garden and basic cooking and preserving skills.
Logan said their current focus for Community Ministries is to move more into the educational space. They will keep supporting what the agencies are doing with their educational programmes, and consider other ways they can educate.
‘We’re realising the need is becoming so much greater. So, the more we can lean into the education and the more we can lean into that co-op model of having people engaged—doing the education—the better off everybody will be.’
Some of the corps members have even created their own group to teach their friends how to grow vegetables using several garden plots.
For Logan, the greater mission of the garden is creating conversations and connection through food, which can lead to meeting other emotional and spiritual needs: ‘food opens the door to having those conversations and those conversations open the door to faith’.