With millions of Australians out of work and the impact of the coronavirus crisis being felt all over the nation, a Victorian stately manor house has turned its famous gardens over to vegetable production to put food on the tables of the needy.
Werribee Mansion’s historic parterre garden are famous all over Australia for their colourful floral displays but this winter the gardens have been given a new lease on life with the planting of green crops which will now help feed struggling families.
Werribee Park Area Chief Ranger James Brincat said the initial plan was to put a green crop into the parterre to rest the soil from the nutrient thirsty flowering crops it usually hosts, but the purpose of the planting changed when the pandemic struck.
“We came up with the idea to put in coloured silver beet which would give us a colourful show as well as organic matter to turn into the soil,” Brincat said.
“But when the COVID-19 crisis came along we were presented with the possibility of food shortages or an increase in disadvantaged, refugee and asylum seeker families going without food over winter.
“So, we took things a step further and decide that rather than ploughing the plants back into the soil we’d harvest them and donate them to community kitchens cooking meals for disadvantaged groups in our community,” Brincat explained.
To achieve their plan of distributing the greens to families in need the team at Werribee Manor joined forces with ‘Working Beyond the Boundaries’ a partnership between Parks Victoria and refugee settlement agency AMES Australia.
AMES Australia CEO Cath Scarth said the partnership had shown agility in being able to adapt to the exigencies of the COVID-19 crisis.
“This is a great outcome and shows what can be done with a bit of imagination and initiative,” she said.
More than 480 kilograms of vegetables have been harvested from the parterre in recent weeks and have been sent to community groups providing food to the disadvantaged, including the local Sikh Temple, which produces a thousand free meals a week for anyone in need.
Other recipients of the produce include Encore Events’ a community kitchen, which has continued to provide support to local community members in need, delivering 600 meals a week.
Encore chef Luciano Fuentes said that while the events centre at Encore was closed during the COVID-19 crisis, the centre was continuing to support the local community.
“Our dedicated team are here to assist and in a time where the events industry has been hit hard, our kitchen is still focused on the community, creating meals for local families and individuals in need,” Fuentes said.
The initiative has been so successful in delivering both a fresh food and a winter show of colour in the gardens that Werribee Park say they it’s likely to become a regular winter program.
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