Winter 2021

Article: Andy Hrast (Canberra Organic – Winter 2021)

Fellow COGS members, welcome to the winter edition of Canberra Organic.

Our gardens are looking great after the wet and mild conditions of summer and autumn and I am excited to hear reports of excellent harvests across Canberra.

The COGS Annual General Meeting was held on Sunday 21 March 2021 at the Mitchell community garden, with a wonderful attendance of almost 40 people. Thank you to those at the Mitchell garden for hosting the meeting.

I am honoured to have been re-elected as President.

Thank you also to all the people who nominated and were elected to positions on the Executive Committee. The list of new 2021–2022 Executive Committee is shown at the front of the magazine. It is pleasing to see a number of new faces joining the Committee and I look forward to working together to take forward a wide-ranging agenda to keep COGS up-to-date.

A big thank you must also go to the outgoing members of the past Committee, some of whom have served in various positions for many years. COGS only exists as a result of the ongoing generosity of people who volunteer their time to take on these leadership roles, both at the Executive Committee level and at the garden level.

For those who were unable to attend, the 2020–21 President’s Report to the AGM can be found on the ‘members only’ section of the COGS website. Key points in the report include the impact of COVID-19 on the gardens and the strong interest from the public that resulted in waiting lists in all our gardens. The fact that the COGS gardens were able to stay open, I am sure, was a great benefit to many during the lockdown.

Nevertheless, there were impacts with reduced communal activity and suspension of talks, general meetings and outings. These are being renewed. The other major highlights in the report on 2020 are the renewal of the 10-year licence with the ACT Government for nine of our gardens and the strong financial position of COGS. COGS continues to enjoy good relations with the ACT Government and there are opportunities to build on that with Ministerial meetings planned for the coming year.

The certainty we now have following the renewal of the licence was the impetus of a Strategic Planning Day in February. It was well-attended by members of the Executive Committee and Convenors. There is a separate article about the planning day elsewhere in the magazine and a comprehensive report in the ‘members only’ section of the COGS website. The Executive Committee is already moving ahead on a number of key findings from the Strategic Planning Day including an infrastructure review, communal membership, review of the COGS Constitution and the creation of a COGS Instagram account.

The Instagram account was created in response to a key finding from the planning day for the need to attract a younger demographic. Instagram is the social media platform of choice of the under 40s.

The infrastructure review will look at the what is currently in place in gardens, with a view to identifying what needs to be upgraded to bring all gardens to a similar standard. Based on the outcomes of the review, the Executive Committee will then allocate financial resources. However, it is important to recognise it will be a matter for each garden to develop proposals for funding and undertake the planning and construction. The infrastructure review will also provide the opportunity for Executive Committee members to visit gardens and for gardeners to raise and discuss matters with them.

COGS continues to engage with the developers of Denman Prospect on the planning for a community garden in the next stage of the development of the suburb. COGS has made a number of suggestions, as it is seen as the ‘go-to’ organisation by industry and government when it comes to community gardens in the ACT.

We have found that COGS is also the ‘go-to’ organisation when it comes to research into urban agriculture in the Canberra area. A meeting was held with Professor Shawn Somerset from the University of Canberra on a study being undertaken into the Future of Food in the Canberra Region. COGS members have been asked to participate in a survey in conjunction with the study and I understand that there has been good response to that request.

While the winter months may be a quieter time in our gardens, they are the busiest time in the administration of COGS with the preparation and sending of invoices to members for plot and membership fees. This a significant workload and I ask your co-operation in being decisive about your intentions with regard to plots for 2021–22 and prompt with the payment of your invoices.

During this season, it’s also a great time to think about clearing and tidying up your plots, so that our gardens are looking spick and span and ready for the spring plantings.

Happy gardening!
—Andy Hrast