All aboard Aldavilla's kitchen garden train

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A culture of strong community engagement, plus a unique cooking space, has the Kitchen Garden Program at Aldavilla Primary School on the fast track to success.

The school, in Kempsey, New South Wales, celebrates its 25th anniversary on 1 November, and has been running its Program for five years.

Aldavilla’s Kitchen Garden Program Coordinator, Gaye Dufty, says that before the school started the Program they had only a handful of volunteers, but now over 100 parents and community members volunteer each year.

 “We constantly receive positive feedback and they keep coming back, which continually amazes us!” Gaye says.

Before each kitchen lesson the school emails the recipes to volunteers, giving them time to brush up on their cooking skills and ask questions before the class.

“We make it easy and relaxed. We have a lot of volunteers who don’t know how to cook.

“A lot of volunteers come in during their work lunch breaks, or make sure they organise a day off so they don’t miss out. Lots of dads come too.”

Aldavilla’s Program has a unique kitchen space in a repurposed train carriage.  Decks on either side of the train carriage also provide fabulous outdoor dining and learning areas.

“We got a grant to get the train, and it came straight from the tracks!” Gaye says.

The garden surrounding the train carriage includes two wood-fired pizza ovens, built collaboratively by three generations of a family from the school. The pizza ovens are decorated with a stunning mosaic design, which the whole school was involved in creating.

The school’s extensive garden includes vegetable beds, an orchard, a chook house, a pig pen, a frog pond, shade houses and a six-bay compost and recycling station.

These kitchen garden facilities make it an ideal multipurpose venue.

“We use the train carriage for reward activities, student and family events, prepping for events we cater for outside of the school, NAIDOC Week and craft activities for the local show,” Gaye says.

The project of repurposing the train carriage helped engage local residents, and community engagement at Aldavilla also extends to building connections with community groups and local businesses.

The Chamber of Commerce and the local Rotary Club have held events at Aldavilla’s kitchen site, and the school has played host to two Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation workshops.

The school has successfully applied for a range of grants, and developed partnerships with local businesses and organisations, to support its activities and keep the program sustainable.

A visitor’s book, where guests visiting the school’s kitchen and garden can write entries about their experiences is filled with positive entries.

“They are generally gobsmacked with our setup and Program,” Gaye says.

Given everything Aldavilla has achieved in its first five years of the Kitchen Garden Program, we can’t wait to see what this school and community have in store for the next five!

  • Aldavilla Primary School is celebrating its 25th anniversary with an Open Day, from 9.30 am–11.30 am on Wednesday, 1 November. The event is open to current and past students and their families, as well as members of the wider community. For more information contact the school on (02) 6563 1141.

Scroll through the gallery of images above to see the unique facilities at Aldavilla's fabulous Kitchen Garden Program.

And watch the Program in action in this great video from the NSW Department of Education.

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