Sandwiched between drought, bushfire and a global pandemic, the 2020 Blue Mountains Edible Garden Trail (held in early March) was nevertheless a great success raising more than $9,000 for school and community gardens.
Even showery weather couldn't deter more than 500-plus visitors from getting their dose of gardening inspiration as once again, tireless volunteers opened their productive patches to the public to showcase their skill, ingenuity, growing know-how and community-mindedness.
The money raised from ticket sales was recently distributed to participating school and community gardens via garden grants and will also ensure the popular trail continues in 2021. In 2019 ticket sales were $11,692 but despite the difficult conditions 2020 ticket sales were not far behind with $9,192.
Some of the projects the money will be spent on include purchasing new greenhouses, improving accessibility, creating bush tucker gardens, making composting systems, increasing biodiversity and attracting beneficial bugs into gardens, and purchasing tools, seeds and fruit trees.
The main focus for the 2020 Trail was engaging Mountains schools to promote healthy eating and outdoor education.
Carolyn Armstrong, assistant principal at Lawson Public School, says being involved in the Edible Garden Trail "has enhanced a spirit of wellbeing and connectedness in our beautiful school community."
Lawson school had no active gardens and an unused kitchen before joining the trail.
"Participating in the Edible Garden Trail was a great way to motivate us into action," she explains.
Guided by research that asserted supporting a school's physical environment, specifically gardens, enhanced wellbeing and a sense of belonging for students, Ms Armstrong says the event helped form partnerships with a network of schools to exchange knowledge, expertise and support.
"The Lawson School Garden project engaged staff, families, students from Kindergarten to Year 6, and the wider community in planning, creating and maintaining the gardens, while developing sustainable and critical living skills," she explains. "The benefits include engaging parents as part of the journey, who are now driving a garden committee, and inspiring kids, allowing them to excel at school by realising their potential to create, sustain and eat out of a garden."
Similarly, Springwood Public School garden coordinator, Tracey McManus, says taking part in the Edible Garden Trail has reignited the school's passion for sustainability.
"We have great plans to make our school a model organisation which is 100 per cent sustainable and self-sufficient, starting with our bush tucker garden," says Ms McManus.
"We want to be able to invite members of the local and school community, as well as Aboriginal groups, and other schools, to become part of our vision to learn how to cook with, and utilise, Indigenous edible plants in our everyday experiences including our school canteen, classroom cooking and Aboriginal history lessons." Both schools received a $500 grant.
The trail is a flagship event for the not-for-profit Blue Mountains Food Co-op. For more information or to get involved with the Edible Garden Trail go to ediblegardentrail.com.