From Book Worms to Earth Worms

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Foundation would like to give a big thanks to Dione Fisher and Kate Ferguson from Diamond Valley Library, Yarra Plenty Regional Library. This article was originally produced by Yarra Plenty Regional Library for INCITE magazine.

Diamond Valley Library is one of nine library branches at Yarra Plenty Regional Library and it has a thriving community garden and Garden Maker Space. Our Maker Space is also a member of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation. In it, we run regular garden events, demonstrations, food swaps, and workshops, and we have a variety of equipment available for use as well as a much-loved mud kitchen. We’ve now been members of the Foundation for close to two years, and we’ve run a lot of programming around healthy eating, sustainability, and gardening skills, including short-term programs with local schools, kindergartens, and childcare centres.

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation aims to help children form positive food habits for life, by embedding gardening in food education. This is a great fit for us as it enables us to teach kids where their food comes from, and to be involved in all aspects of food preparation, even the growing. We believe that we’re the only public library to be members of the Foundation.

In 2020, we’ve increased our program offering, delivering a monthly after-school session to introduce primary school kids to gardening and cooking. We’ve begun planting and growing our own food in the community garden, harvesting, cooking, and (most importantly) eating the delicious results. In our first session, we planted green and purple beans and chickpeas, which are already starting to sprout. We’ve now moved on to start cooking with our home-grown food, making some kale and sweet potato fritters in herb sauce.


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Moving forward, we'll experiment, try new things and find all sorts of amazing things to do with our fresh produce. Two of our staff members have attended professional development with the Foundation on the logistics of practicality of running a kitchen garden program. We are lucky to have complimentary skills - my colleague Dione has gardening skills but hasn't done much cooking with kids, while I have done plenty of the latter but have black thumbs and struggle to tell my kale from my bok choy. It has been a very educational experience.

The Foundation recommends having at least two people running the program. We’re lucky to also have a community garden which is largely tended by our amazing volunteers, so we can focus our energy on program delivery. As the Maker Space has been running for some years, we have plenty of equipment, including gardening gear (eg: kid-sized gloves and watering cans), an induction stove, some kitchenware, and we’ve purchased more kitchen equipment to supplement our supplies. We’ve had to think about things like knife usage and supervision, methods of cookery, and go through a rigorous risk assessment process. Our Garden Maker Space enables us to do this and so much more.

Last year, we introduced unstructured Garden Play sessions following our Toddler Times, where younger children can play in the garden, water and weed, investigate what’s growing, and taste some produce. This has been hugely popular and has led to us looking into ways we can engage older kids in the garden and in food education. Yarra Plenty Regional Library’s Maker Spaces present opportunities to create, connect, collaborate, and learn in a fun and supportive environment.

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden After School Program as part of the Garden Maker Space at Diamond Valley Library lets our community actively engage in food education, gardening, and cooking. We’ve had fantastic responses so far and are excited to see where the project takes us.


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