A VEGGIE-growing challenge has become much more for public servant Elizabeth Goodfellow, who started the 100 kilos Summer Veg Challenge at Bowning, north of Yass, in September last year as a way to encourage more people to grow fruit and veg in their own backyard.
“I wanted to do something useful, that helped the environment and made a genuine difference to people’s lives,” she says.
The initiative has taken off, and what started as a challenge for local gardeners has become a way to bring communities together and share food with people in need.
“I went to a presentation last year about sustainability at the Canberra Environment Centre, and one of the speakers was Dave Pentony, who runs Choku Bai Jo,” she says.
“He said we could produce hundreds of thousands of kilos of food if everyone grew 100kg themselves. It struck a chord with me – I’d just grown 60kg of tomatoes pretty much by accident, and I thought, it should be possible to grow a lot more.”
Elizabeth started the website 100kilos.org to encourage anyone to have a go at growing their own fruit and vegetables, by sharing photos, knowledge and tips online.
Now it’s harvest time and Elizabeth has organised a series of Harvest Swap Meets in Yass, where people can bring along their home-grown efforts and swap with other people.
“It hasn’t been a great year for growing, with all the heat, and personally I’ve only managed to grow about 11kg this year, but there are people who have done amazingly well, even if they have a glut of one thing in particular,” she says.
“The swaps we’ve had so far have been wonderful community events, with produce that looks absolutely amazing, with up to 24 different sorts of fruit, veg and herbs.
“People seem to love to stop and chat, and share stories and recipes. We also get passers-by asking if they can buy the produce, but it’s done by exchange only.
“Sometimes they will then go away and come back with huge boxes of apples from their garden!”
Elizabeth says there’s a dedicated community of keen backyard gardeners forming online, and that she’s on the lookout for more experts to contribute to the blog.
“I’m certainly no growing expert myself, and I learnt by the school of hard knocks,” she says. “I think that’s what’s so great about the program – growing can be fun but challenging, and we can help each other.”
Elizabeth says Harvest Swaps will be starting in Canberra from April.
“We will be placing boxes at Canberra City Care in Charnwood, at Mount Rogers Community Centre in Spence, and at Communities@Work in Gungahlin Community Centre and Tuggeranong Community Centre,” she says. “People can leave their produce and take what they feel is a fair swap.”
Any leftover food will be donated to local community organisations and food pantries, she says.
“It’s rewarding, and I find that people are positive about it and get very enthusiastic,” Elizabeth says.
“It’s taking on a life of its own.”
Upcoming Harvest Swap Meets will be held at the Thyme to Taste Cafe, 60 Comur Street, Yass, 9.30am-2pm, on April 12 and May 20.
As of April 26 there will be a regular Swap Meet at the Murrumbateman Farmers Market on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month.
More information, at 100kilos.org.