2021-22 COGS Executive Committee

Article: Rebecca Travers (Canberra Organic – Spring 2021)

In March 2021, the 2021-22 COGS Executive Committee was elected at the Annual General Meeting. So what better opportunity than to meet some members of your Executive Committee, find out what they love growing and what they hope to achieve in their role?

Andy Hrast

Andy enjoys a tea-party with his grandchildren

President of COGS since the COVID delayed AGM in August 2020, I have been on the COGS Executive Committee for more than 10 years. Prior to this role I have been the Treasurer (4.5 years), Vice-President and Secretary, and was Convenor at the Betty Cornhill Garden for a number of years.  

My parents were keen gardeners and so it was only natural that I continue the tradition. I first took up a plot in the COGS Cotter Garden (now Betty Cornhill) in about 1980, when 3 kids, a dog and shade and roots from large trees made gardening at home impractical. I was introduced to COGS by a parent on the sideline of one the boys football matches.

The process of gardening is, for me, as important as the produce from the garden. Gardening is the never ending ‘project’ of planning and doing. In times past it was an important outlet to relieve the frustrations of work, especially Minister’s offices.

I enjoy growing vegetables that are not too attractive to predators and that contribute to the household food economy for longer periods of time. I find carrots, potatoes, pumpkins and tomatoes (made up as sauce for longevity) are the most satisfying.

Retirement gave me the opportunity to take a more active role in COGS. I see my role as President as one of providing a supportive organisational environment in which the COGS Executive Committee and Garden Committees can run COGS and its gardens for the benefit of the more than 500 members. This involves an inclusive but decisive leadership and advocacy on behalf of COGS and its members to the Government and other like-minded organisations in Canberra.

Michele Barson

I have been interested in plants and gardening most of my life. Moving to Canberra in the early 1980s I finally had enough space to grow strawberries and vegetables as well as ornamental plants.

I joined COGS about 13 years ago, initially gardening at Kaleen, and moving to Cook in 2010 when a plot became available. I inherited a plot where the soil had been very well managed and enjoy growing a wide range of crops, especially asparagus, garlic and raspberries.

I have been COGS’ Vice President for almost two years. I am now retired and have more time for COGS and gardening. I am hoping to work with others in COGS to make plots available to more gardeners and to improve the sustainability of our activities.  

Neil Williams

My role on the COGS Executive Committee is as Treasurer. I am also the Convenor of the Holder community garden. The President, Andy, ‘twisted my arm’ and sweet talked me into what a fabulous opportunity being Treasurer was! Seriously, it was an opportunity to learn a new set of skills and to help out the Committee.

I am not really a gardener — my wife is. She has been a member of Holder for about 10 years. One of my passions is cooking and I love turning her fabulous produce into great meals. My wife grows lots of wonderful things, including pumpkin, zucchini, garlic, chillies, potatoes, beans, eggplants, raspberries, capsicum, corn, and cabbage.

One thing I love doing is composting — I am continually amazed at the work worms and other small insects and microbes do to turn food scraps and other organic material into beautiful soil conditioner. I do lots of composting at home and also at the Holder community garden.

Through my role in the COGS Executive Committee I hope to achieve a smooth running of our invoices and payments. The role involves sending out around 500 invoices to members at plot and membership renewal time, as well as payment of garden expenses, the largest of which is our water bills.

One of the key things I am involved in is a review of infrastructure across all the Gardens. COGS is currently in a sound financial position (something I hope to continue) and has certainty from the 10-year Licence with the ACT Government, which should enable some investment in our gardens.

The Infrastructure Review is progressing well. We have visited all twelve gardens and are in the process of preparing a report for the August meeting of the Executive Committee. The results of the Review will be advised to members in coming months.  

Rebecca Travers

My role is as the Editor of COGS’ quarterly publication Canberra Organic. I also look after COGS’ new Instagram account. I was approached to take on the role of magazine editor, as I used to prepare a newsletter for the Mitchell community garden and many years ago worked in media and communications.

One of my first memories of gardening involves growing radishes in a garden bed when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I remember being so excited when I pulled the plump, red radishes out of the soil. I’ve had different levels of success since then, both on a balcony garden, in a garden plot and more recently in my courtyard where I am trying to make the most of the small space.

For me, one of the things I love most about gardening is watching things grow. I also how gardening forces you to slow down, breathe and appreciate nature. I like growing zucchinis and tomatoes because I find they are really versatile to add to my cooking. I also enjoy growing herbs, as they are great to have on hand to add to dishes. I’ve always wanted to grow Brussels sprouts — which are one of my favourite vegetables — but none of my attempts so far have been successful.

I hope that my role as Editor brings the stories, knowledge and ideas of COGS members into your mailboxes and inboxes. There is so much knowledge amongst our members — it’s so important to share it.

Jo McMillan

The flowers at Jo’s plot are just beautiful

I have been involved with the COGS Executive Committee since 2013 after becoming Convenor of the Charnwood community garden. I then took on the role of COGS Membership Secretary for a couple of years before taking on the Gardens Coordinator position in 2015. The Coordinator acts as a point of contact for the Convenors of the 12 COGS gardens.

I have loved gardening since I was a child, growing annual flowers and pottering in mum’s fern house. I joined the Charnwood community garden in 2012 and haven’t looked back in terms of the variety of fruit and vegetables (and flowers) that the plot in the community garden has enabled me to grow.

While I do like to grow a few vegetables amongst the flowers, it has been the friendships made through my involvement with the Committee and the Charnwood community garden that has made gardening with COGS so enjoyable. If I had to narrow it down, my favourite thing to grow would be butternut pumpkins (with just a few flowers around the perimeter to attract pollinators).

I have been in my current role for several years now. I believe my main achievement has been to coordinate a forum where the Convenors of the 12 COGS gardens can connect with one another, share ideas and discuss issues that are common to all our garden communities. I hope to be able to give the role more of my time in the years to come.  

Teresa Rose

From L to R: Holly Barnes, Teresa Rose,
Jemima Barnes and Thomas Rose. That’s
Chardonnay the scarecrow with the red

I have been a General Member of the COGS Executive Committee for nearly two years and the Convenor of the Charnwood community garden for nearly three. Being a link between the COGS Executive Committee and the Charnwood Garden Committee has allowed our garden to grow in numbers of gardeners, numbers of plots, and gather support for outreach to the wider community.

I have been gardening all my life at home and since 2012 at the Charnwood community garden. As a child, I accompanied my father to the paddocks in Western Sydney to collect cow manure. My job was to break up the manure and stir it in a 44-gallon drum. Liquid gold! I loved that job! Whilst my children are too busy to garden currently, the grandchildren love coming to the Charnwood community garden during the Queensland school holidays.

Nutrition has always been my main driver for gardening, but since joining the community garden I have found that camaraderie runs a close second. Monaro Purple Garlic is the crop I love growing most. I supply my own household and those of my three children who reside interstate. Sebago and Dutch Cream potatoes are my second favourite things to grow.

My skills lie in scientific research and education, so I hope to continue to contribute to the COGS Executive Committee where needed.  

Jyl Thompson

My role as part COGS Executive Committee is the Secretary, which involves undertaking the secretariat duties for COGS meetings.

I’ve been gardening all of my life and particularly enjoy that gardening is mediative, creative and produces edibles. My favourite thing to grow would have to be herbs.

Through my role in the COGS Executive Committee, I hope to make a difference and provide support to COGS community garden members and the COGS Executive Committee.

Narelle McLean

My role on the COGS Executive Committee is as a General Member and my reason for being involved is to learn more about the COGS organisation and to be part of the planning and progress of the gardens.

 I’ve been gardening at the Mitchell community garden for 7 years now, but generally I have pottered around in the garden for years. For me, I most enjoy the connection with nature and growing a variety of plants myself. My favourite thing to grow would have to be tomatoes — but isn’t that what most people like to grow?  

Through my role in the COGS Executive Committee, I really just hope to be part of the discussion and planning for the sustainability of the organisation — especially the gardens, ensuring they are here for years to come.  

Peter Rouse

I’m a General Member of the COGS  Executive Committee and nominated  at the last AGM, as I wanted to help out.  As current Convenor at Betty Cornhill  community garden, I could already  attend meetings as an observer but  also being a member of the Committee  also gives me the opportunity put  forward my point of view.  I’m on the  Committee to contribute where I can.

I have been gardening for about fifty  years and the thing I enjoy most about  gardening is eating what I have grown,  nothing beats really fresh, organic  produce. Picking my favourite thing to  grow however, is too hard — berries,  broad beans, carrots, leeks, parsnips,  roses, spring bulbs and tree peonies is  probably the short list. 

Cathy Morison

When I joined COGS and began working my plot at the Kambah community garden, I mentioned to the then-Convenor Neville Jackson that I had spent most of my working life in IT. Neville became the President of COGS shortly thereafter, and he asked me to give him some assistance with the web hosting and emails. From there I took on the role of Web Manager, which was expanded to include the Information Officer role at the next AGM.

My earliest memory of gardening was as a child at home, helping my Dad dig over the annual veggie plot. I have always kept a veggie plot and have recognised and appreciated the therapeutic value of gardening, and the reward of being able to grow your own food. Prior to taking the plot at Kambah, I had a very large, raised vegetable garden on our property at Michelago. When we moved into town, the veggie garden was one of the main things I missed.

Undoubtedly the most enjoyable part of gardening is harvesting! I also love working with the soil, nourishing it and getting my hands dirty. I follow ‘no dig’ principles as much as possible and use as much compost and organic matter as possible. This results in what, for me, is the second most enjoyable thing about gardening — delving into the soil and seeing the abundance of worms and the beautiful structure of well cared for, organic soil.

I don’t think I have a single favourite thing to grow. However, over the course of my time at Kambah I have gone from trying to grow absolutely everything I can, to focussing on growing more of the things which are both relatively easy to grow and which I know I will eat. The third spring of my new asparagus bed is coming up, so I am really looking forward to finally being able to harvest most of the shoots. I also love to grow onions, leeks, beetroot, pumpkins and lots of herbs.

Through my role on the COGS Executive Committee, I hope to improve the accessibility of information on gardening in the Canberra region via the COGS website, as well as to find and share sources of relevant information from other areas. After creating the online membership form, I am hoping to eventually introduce online payment.