The much-loved community gardens manager growing not just fruit but friendships in the Bay of Plenty.
Words Natalie Cyra
Soaring in popularity, community gardens are a great way to foster community relationships and grow great produce – but they take a lot of hard work to build and maintain. Andrea Green is a local champion working hard for hers.
Community gardens are a beautiful way to bring people together, grow your own food and share knowledge and lifelong skills. It is with this purpose in mind that drives Andrea Green to work tirelessly at her local organic garden in Tauranga as a dedicated member of Good Neighbour Trust.
Green’s local garden is aptly called the Welcome Bay Community Garden, and the plant-lover is part of the team designing, growing and maintaining the gardens for members of the public, of all ages, to visit, use and enjoy.
“My desire is really to encourage strong local community networks around growing clean produce, sharing resources as well as multigenerational knowledge. I want to increase our food security whilst building friendships, learning and being inclusive of everyone in our communities. There’s a lot of food poverty in New Zealand but there’s also a great deal of relational poverty too,” Green says.
The Welcome Bay Community Garden began when a small group of people in the community, including Green wanted to see a vacant paddock on church land better utilised. “We connected with Good Neighbour Trust who had just launched an exciting vision around community gardens and it’s just grown and grown,” she adds.
Besides managing the gardens, Green is also involved in projects such as Garden to Table, a nationwide education programme with local primary schools showing children how to grow, harvest, prepare and share produce. Many schools now have their own growing spots within the gardens, and it’s common to see the children stop by the gardens after school to pick up some free organic food straight from the gardens for an afternoon snack.
Food and crop swap groups have also popped up in the area thanks to Green, where community members meet to swap their abundance of produce with others. Green and the rest of her team at Good Neighbour Trust have also built a swap and share box at the gardens where people put their excess fruit and veges. People in Welcome Bay know that food is available and free for them to take from this box. If that’s not being a good neighbour, then we don’t know what is.
For Green, positive change means that children from low income families and anyone else in need has access to organic food. To be able to teach people to grow their own organic seedlings, save bees and plant fruit trees is one of her biggest joys.
Green has an even stronger vision for the gardens: to develop a seed bank to ensure a collective seed legacy remains in the community for generations to come.
“I guess just seeing the global food system – and the importance of our local communities being empowered. I suppose it’s a bit nostalgic, but I think we can all grow locally and should know what’s in our food – and that it’s accessible and nutritious,” Green says.
To vote for Andrea Green, winner of the Organics category, as the People’s Choice award recipient, click here.
To find out more about Andrea Green and the Welcome Bay Community Garden, head to the Good Neighbour Trust website, goodneighbour.co.nz