The Community Garden
The Community Garden was established in 2010 and was originally a joint venture between the Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service Limited (WAMS), under the Bila Muuji Healthy for Life program, Murdi Paaki Regional Enterprise Corporation (MPREC) and the Walgett Shire. MPREC purchased fruit trees and assisted with the maintenance of the garden. For the last few years it has been solely under WAMS management with the WAMS gardening team helping out.
It was officially opened on the 14 April 2011 by Mark Olive, aka the Black Olive, as part of WAMS twenty five year celebrations.
When WAMS decided they needed a full time gardener to look after the Community Garden, they found the proverbial green fingers with the appointment of local woman, Sophia Byers.
Sophia, with a Certificate III in Forestry And Horticulture, has brought fresh enthusiasm to the project, implementing new concepts and having a long established and traditional understanding of what is required to yield the best results.
Shaded canopies were erected over the beds and an overhead system was established.
Weeds are an ever present problem which require continual vigilance to control them and companion planting has been introduced to reduce the use of insecticides and tokeep the insects at bay.
Sophia grows the majority of the produce from seeds, first in the ‘hot house,’ until they are a few centimetres tall when they are then transferred into larger pots to ‘harden up’ before being planted into the beds.
Sophia enjoys gathering the vegetables when they are ripe and distributing them to WAMS clients who have a chronic disease as per the criterion of the Commonwealth Department of Health’s ‘Healthy for Life’ program, and also the elderly and is always willing to give advice to members of the community on plants, fertilizing and common sense maintenance.
Community groups are welcome to ‘own’ a garden bed and share the pleasure of planting and harvesting produce.
Sophia is also very proud of her herb garden and this year began making oils to distribute to the community as well as bottling vegetables.
Sophia enters the produce from the garden into the Annual Walgett Show each year, usually coming away with a ribbon or two. This year, she won First Prize for her vegetables.