Yesterday the Inner West Courier published a story claiming that the “Ultimo Community Garden trial has been a disaster”. This article has bothered Penultimo enough to bring us out of blog-silence and get posting again (if only briefly).
The Inner West Courier (note - no reporter byline) claims that the Ultimo Community Garden contains “bug-infested crops and dying tomatoes”, and that “the plants are not thriving in the pocket park, which is a largely shaded area”.
The article also claims that:
“The garden cost ratepayers $16,000, but it’s not available to the public, with only 25 people approved by the club allowed to use the garden and crops. The garden occupies more than 60 per cent of the public park, which has left only a small space for children to kick balls and run around, although future plans for the park would occupy an even greater percentage of the park.”
If this were all true, and a community garden had become a bug-infested exclusive club, then maybe we’d agree that this is all worth a story in a community newspaper. But it’s all a beat-up, chiefly owing to one local resident who has an unexplained chip on her shoulder. More on that in a moment, but first, let’s get a few things straight:
The park is not entirely shaded and some sections get plenty of sun. There are also plenty of crops you can grow in part-sun/part-shade conditions. Plants are chosen to suit these conditions. Crops are doing rather well - there were fantastic eggplants around the other day, and any organic garden is going to face a few challenges from bugs, from time to time.
The Ultimo Community Garden is not an exclusive “club” - it’s a not-for-profit incorporated organisation. The organisation encourages involvement from everyone. Anyone is welcome to come at any time and harvest the crops, provided they don’t damage them.
The community garden hardly has a negative impact on what was once a boring little patch of grass at McKee Street, and there is plenty of room for dogs and children. There is also another, larger park very close by (Mary Ann St Park).
So why has the Inner West Courier published this extremely negative little piece? This is pretty straightforward. They quote only one person - Colleen Robinson.
Now, Ms Robinson has a bit of a history with the Ultimo Community Garden. When it was being built, she asked to become a member, the Community Garden encouraged this, and invited her to attend garden meet days. But there was some breakdown in communication, and Ms Robinson got offended and angry, and has spent the last year campaigning against the garden. See this post from May 7.
Penultimo asked a founding member of the Ultimo Community Garden about what is happening - and found, not really to our surprise, that the Inner West Courier’s and Ms Robinson’s claims about the failure of the Ultimo Community Garden has no basis in reality.
The City of Sydney Council media office provided the Inner West Courier with information on the garden, which was roundly ignored. The Council media office is now considering putting in a complaint with the local newspaper’s Editor.
The really troubling part of all of this is that someone is sabotaging the garden. Last week toolboxes (worth around $700) were stolen, and someone has been putting rotting meat into the dry-matter bin, and putting excrement (dog? human?) into the garden beds. A member of the Ultimo Community Garden also notes that plants and soil have been stolen. The police have been involved twice.
It could just be plain old teenage vandalism, but with all this controversy, this certainly looks more targeted. Short of keeping all-night vigils, there is little that the Ultimo Community Garden can do to stop this.