Clarification for Community Gardens
Updated 18th November 2021:
We’re pleased to provide an update on the Collingwood Children’s Farm community garden. Members of the Farm’s Committee of Management (the COM) have been meeting weekly with plot holder representatives and officers from the Department of Land, Environment, Water and Planning (DELWP) to discuss actions and timelines for reopening the gardens for an interim period before full redesign and refurbishment can commence.
Recently, we took onboard community and gardener requests to assess any potential heritage values in the gardens. A heritage assessment was completed which determined that CCF can proceed with its planned redevelopment of the community gardens without breaching the heritage requirements of Heritage Victoria. The assessment and determination is
TIMELINE FOR GARDENERS RETURN
The key issue for the site remains safety. After heavy spring rains and an extended lockdown period, the community garden is now severely overgrown. The broad plan is to clear the flat bottom third of the gardens of weeds and structures to create an accessible and safe gardening space for current plot holders before a wider community consultation process commences in 2022. The interim space will be maintained and supported by CCF staff who will also manage several plots for community engagement and education programs.
However these plans are still in development.
CLARIFICATION ON FUTURE OF THE FARM
Please note that some plot holders have formed a Collingwood Community Gardens
Association. This organisation is not affiliated with the Farm and gardeners do not have to be a formal member of either the Community Gardens Association or the Collingwood Children’s Farm in order to be allocated a plot. All plot holders will however be issued a DELWP licence through the Farm.
The Association recently distributed some information about the future of the community gardens that may be causing confusion with plot holders and members, so we’d like to clarify some matters.
Will the community gardens return to plot holders after the safety works?
Yes. After the safety upgrades, plots will be re-zoned and offered to current plot holders to continue their farming activities. The timeline for interim access is in discussion.
Will the Community Gardens be used for a social enterprise business?
No. Once the safety works are completed the community gardens will be reopened for plot holders and the broader community to continue farming as they have for many years.
One of the 70 plots is held by CCF’s Moving Feast partners who are a social enterprise, but that plot will not be used commercially. It will be used for engagement and educational purposes with vulnerable youth.
Have Community Gardeners been consulted in the process?
Yes. Community Gardeners have been represented by three delegates from the Digging In Gardener’s Steering Committee in discussions since July.
This evolved into a DELWP-led mediation process involving DELWP, Steering Committee reps and CCF Management and Committee Members that has been occurring weekly since September.
The newly formed Collingwood Community Gardens Association has only recently contacted CCF, and it’s not clear whether they are affiliated with those three delegates and the Digging In Gardeners or not.
CCF is committed to ongoing consultation with the Gardeners and local community.
The Farm has applied for funding to undertake a systematic review of the role and function of the gardens, to be based on a wide community consultation with diverse stakeholders, partners and users of the Farm. The funding request includes design and refurbishment of the gardens to create a beautiful, all-access food growing space to meet the educational and social justice objectives of the Farm. We hope to hear news on this application in the next couple of weeks.
We are also heartened to hear that a community documentary-maker and local heritage professionals are keen to document the history and significance of the community garden.
The Farm will support this effort by providing historic photographs and archived documents and will begin sourcing these as soon as possible. We will also seek funds to have a “history of the gardens” interpretive signage as part of the renewal project.
Finally, we want to acknowledge that the temporary closure of the gardens has upset many people and are sorry that the closure has been hard for gardeners and their families. We have also been overwhelmed with messages of support to rejuvenate the community garden and make it an inclusive space linked to the work of the Farm.
Thanks to everyone who has reached out, and we look forward to working with current plot holders, farm partners and supporters and the wider community to redesign and renew these gardens in 2022
Updated 19th July 2021:
No commercial development.
The Community Gardens will remain Community Gardens.
The section of land at Collingwood Children’s Farm known as the ‘Community Gardens’ are temporarily closed. We understand our community of gardeners are saddened by the temporary closure; however this area has been deemed an extreme safety risk for children, gardeners, the community, and farm staff by an external safety consultant.
Collingwood Children’s Farm Committee of Management made this decision in line with best practice guidelines that prioritise community safety and assist committees when dealing with risk management.
– Hon Lily D’Ambrosio MP
Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change & Minister for Solar Homes
Community is at the heart of all decisions made at CCF. We are saddened by the sorrow this has caused however we also want to ensure that everyone is aware of the facts. There are several misconceptions about this temporary closure, these are clarified below.
- The site is not being bulldozed. Every effort will be taken to maintain the soil integrity during any remediation works. Machinery will be used to remove some materials more efficiently and safely.
- The site will remain a Community Garden. The land is not being sold. No commercial development is taking place.
- This is not about snakes. Yes, snakes are identified as a concern in the report due to the current condition of the gardens, but this is not the main reason for the temporary closure. The combination of multiple hazards within the gardens creates an even greater risk of serious injury.
- The current condition and layout of the gardens are not only unsafe; but do not allow safe access for children, the elderly and those who are mobility diverse. The gardens have become an exclusive space separated from the wider community because of this.
- Gardening will not stop. The current gardeners will be invited to return to the space and will be included in the refreshed Community Gardens. In the interim, subject to covid restrictions, we will seek to enable current gardeners to continue to garden at the farm. A list of opportunities to remain engaged with the farm and gardens are provided on our website and will be updated as more opportunities arise.
- Healthcare card holders who rely on produce grown in the CCF community garden and who experience food insecurity are offered produce from the CCF market garden.
- All plot holders will have their fees fully reimbursed.
The Farm has been working with the Community Gardeners to try and improve safety in the gardens since 2018. Throughout this time, the gardeners were alerted to safety concerns via multiple channels and their support was sought to improve the condition of the gardens. Sadly, the enormity of the project to make the site safe, and to improve accessibility has been too great.
We understand that our response to these safety hazards might seem unreasonable to those currently using the gardens and to able-bodied individuals, however, these hazards are preventing a significant proportion of our community from being able to access this space safely and allowing them to also enjoy the magic and extensive benefits of gardening.
Our aims and responsibilities
Collingwood Children’s Farm provides community engagement, education and nature connection with green space and animals. CCF works to support social inclusion with a range of programs on a working community farm and is a haven for children and adults alike.
CCF aims to develop self-esteem, self-worth, and connectedness, particularly of children and those experiencing adversity.
CCF aims to facilitate participation of children and their families in broader community life and a connection to nature.
CCF aims to provide educational opportunities around urban agriculture for students and community as well as pathways to further employment.
In addition to being a safe and accessible space, our refreshed community gardens will deliver these aims for the benefit and inclusion of all.
We have a duty of care for the safety of all at the Farm, and we cannot ignore the safety advice received.
We cannot compromise on safety; this is not an optional feature of the gardens. However, we can consult on the design and structure of the rejuvenated gardens and will do so extensively.
If you have any questions, we encourage you to email us at [email protected]
Temporary closure of our Community Gardens
On Thursday, 27 May we received a safety report from an external safety consultant about our Community Gardens. To say that the findings were not good, would be an understatement. The report identified major safety issues and concluded that the site is unsafe for gardeners, the community, and Farm staff. Several factors were rated as an extremely high risk, requiring immediate action.
The works required to fix the issues are significant and go to the very heart of the layout, structure, and design of the gardens.
Following receipt of the report, the Committee of Management reluctantly decided to temporarily close the Community Garden in order to implement the report’s recommendations.
Our Community Garden brings immense joy to our Community Garden members. We will be doing everything we can to ease the impact of this closure and keep our gardeners connected and active during this time.
We will be providing alternative opportunities at the Farm for our Community Garden members to garden and maintain their social and physical well-being during the closure.
Healthcare card holders who relied on produce grown in the CCF community garden and who experience food insecurity are offered produce from the CCF market garden.
While this will be an emotional and difficult transition for our Community Garden members, we hope that this will allow the Community Gardens to sprout again, not just safer, but more accessible and more inclusive than before.
Questions & Answers
Recently the Farm has had to temporarily close the CCF Community Gardens, this has raised many questions and some myths. Below we address the frequently asked questions. Will will also be providing updates via our newsletter and social media. Once re-built, the Community Gardens will be more inclusive, accessible and productive than ever before!
Contribute your idea to rejuvenate the Community Garden
The specific designs (or landscape architects) for the rejuvenated Community Gardens are not yet known. They will however, still overflow with herbs and vegetables and flowers. They will have accessible paths, and regular taps and seating. They will honour the history of the Community Gardens, the Farm, and the history of the precinct. They will be welcoming, inclusive and demonstrate to all how productive a small area can be, hopefully encouraging many more to take up gardening.
If you have a vision for the new CCF Community Garden, feel free to send in images or ideas which we can collate and send on to the landscape architects. Also, the Design Concept will be open for consultation, so let us know if you would like to be informed when consultation opens.