When Neville and Thelma Holgate came to New Zealand in 2012 from Liverpool in the UK, they were looking to use their gardening skills for a worthy cause.
Sustainable Waipā had just started up and were in the process of creating a community garden on overgrown council land in Vogel Street, Cambridge.
Ten years later, Neville and Thelma still work as volunteers for the charitable trust that became Sustainable Cambridge and then Cambridge Community Garden.
There are 60 other people just like Neville and Thelma who help toil the one hectare garden behind Cambridge Resthaven.
Chairperson and volunteer co-ordinator Alison Hucke said the incorporated society was always on the lookout for volunteers and appreciated it when youth groups such as girl guides, scouts and brownies, schools and Duke of Edinburgh award participants helped in the garden.
Recently the Cambridge Rangers topped up the carrot bed and sowed carrots and beetroot, cleaned up the old pumpkin plants and tidied up the compost heaps.
The Cambridge Pippins planted out broad beans and kale and donated a bird path while the Duke of Edinburgh volunteers cleaned up and planted the front beds.
“It is help from groups like this that keep the garden productive and healthy,” said Alison who confirmed the garden was feeding “a lot” of needy Cambridge families.
She has a soft spot for grandparents who look after their grandchildren saying they get little financial support, she said.
There are more than 30 families in that situation in Cambridge and the garden provides them with food from the garden to the table, she said.
Covid has made it tough on many families and so having the garden means there is always fresh fruit and vegetables available.
“We grow fruit for the community especially for those in need and those who do not have a garden of their own.
“Our kaupapa is when you work, you harvest.”
On the day The News visits, the sharing shed recently donated by Cambridge Lions, holds freshly picked puha, silver beet, spinach, tomatoes, capsicums, chilis, pumpkin, squash, baby parsnips, rhubarb, grapes, quinces, chives, fennel, basil and coriander.
There was a bag of curry leaves and bay leaves and rosemary and some puha seedlings before someone picked them up plus there is heaps of lavender – suitable for lavender bags or cushions or for distilling, said Alison.
The garden has its own compost area and worm farm and out the back are 11 chickens who produce eggs for sale.
Many of the crops, such as the large kumara patch, are covered to prevent pukeko from destroying the plots.
“We really are self-sustainable,” said Thelma in her gentle Welsh accent.
In return for taking home the bountiful produce, people can either help with weeding and pruning or they leave a donation. People can swap their surplus produce for something they do not have.
The garden has regular working bees which become a social event for many participants, an opportunity to catch up over a rake or shovel followed by a barbecue.
The community has always supported the garden – gifting fruit trees, seedlings, chickens, books, equipment, glass houses or there is the man who uses his earthmoving equipment to sort the compost.
“That takes him half an hour, it would take us two days,” said Alison.
Recently a child friendly woodland area filled with fairies has opened at the back of the garden.
And just in case anyone in the community is tempted to take too much produce or vandalise the garden, Jumble Around recently funded the installation of CCTV cameras.