Linda Mahony, one of our honorary life members recounts the Gardens history at the members’ event held in December.
In 2001, interested residents requested a plot of land from Maroochy Shire Council to set up a community garden. On 12th May 2002, this became a reality when Council donated a disused bitumen-covered basketball court and tennis courts to the group as the ‘ideal’ place to set up their veggie gardens, and so, the Maroochy Community Permaculture Group was born. The original membership was 6 active members and 12 financial members. The gardens were also the first permaculture gardens set up on the Sunshine Coast and we’re still the only group that operates as a display/educational garden – all others operate under the ‘lease a plot’ system.
In 2002, the gardens were established on the old tennis courts under the care of a full-time manager. The main entrance was via the gate in the side fence alongside the park. This area also contained the old tennis clubhouse, which comprised of a kitchen, toilet and shower, and a large meeting room. This shed was in a very sad state of disrepair and needed a lot of work to bring it up to scratch. It was demolished in 2007 due to termite infestation and asbestos.
In August 2003, the ‘Community Jobs Project’(CJP) started work on the ‘little house’ which had been moved on-site on the newly leased block of land across the car park from the basketball court. This house is now over 100 years old and has seen life in a few different streets of Yandina in its time. The “CJP” work brought the house up to the point where it could be used as the new office and training area and, after the paint job on the exterior, it became known forevermore as The Blue House.
In 2003, the original cob oven was built with help from Bob Cameron of Rockcote and it was replaced in 2005 due to termite attack, again with Bob Cameron’s amazingly generous help.
In 2004, the gardens put on a weekend of music, food and artisan stalls, known as Permafest. It was so successful, that it was repeated the following year. Because Yandina residents did not know much about the happenings behind all the trees at the Gardens, it was felt that these Permafest events gave the locals the impression that permaculture was all about unwashed, dreadlocked hippies.
In 2008, Council, through a series of workshops held over a number of weekends, built the straw bale structure to replace the old tennis shed. This structure provided kitchen and shade facilities for the workers in the garden.
In 2009, a federal water grant provided for the aquaponics system and water tanks to help ease the reliance on town water. A grant from Council to make the Blue House more sustainable was also received and this provided solar water and power systems as well as the pergola over the kitchen on the western side of the house.
In 2010, the gardens were the recipients of the Sunshine Coast Council’s ‘Glossies’ award for Edible Landscapes and this award brought in lots of attention and visitors to the gardens.
In 2010 we received a 1-year grant from SCC through the Environment Levy to run free workshops covering all aspects of sustainable living and then in 2011, we successfully applied for a 3-year grant to continue this program – this grant gave the gardens just over $18,000 a year for the three years.
Also, in 2011, Maroochy Community Permaculture Group Inc decided – for legal reasons – to change its name to Yandina Community Gardens, as this was the name most people used when referring to the Gardens.
Over the years, the Gardens has established itself as a premier educational facility and we have been able to entice people of the calibre of Costa Georgiadis, Jerry Coleby-Williams and Annette McFarlane to come and spend the day with us at our Open Days, generously giving freely of their time, knowledge and expertise to our many visitors.
There have been many changes to the original design over the years, and there is now a new plan in place to bring in more changes over the next five or so years. To read more about the strategy click here