When Gardens Grow People as Well as Plants


Beth Lew is passionate about the health and wellbeing benefits of growing your own food. "Through our group ‘Growing Gardens and Communities’ we want to empower people to grow their own veggies and share their produce and what they are learning with others. It's a great way to break down barriers between people and build caring communities."


Beth has hand her hands in the soil from a young age. "My mother always gardened and I was her main weeder and helper. Then when I grew up I always made sure I put a garden in wherever I lived."


Beth’s interest in food gardening increased when she was diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2016 and became even more interested in healthy organic food. "I improved my food gardening skills by reading Kath Irvine and doing some online courses…and through lots of practice." Beth is a strong believer in the flow-on benefits of food growing. One of her favourite quotes about gardening is:


’Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do. Plus you get strawberries.’ - Louisa Relia


The group 'Growing Gardens and Communities' is one of ENM’s newer member groups. They formed in early 2020 from a group of associates who shared a desire to work together in food sustainability and empowerment. The group of friends watched a film called Sustainable Futures which asked viewers to reflect on what they could do in their own area to contribute to a more sustainable future. After they reflected on that question they formed the group.


"Our core purpose is to empower people into food growing however we can…through free classes, mentoring, and growing and sharing food together at the Awapuni Community Gardens." The group have shared garden beds at ACG which they call the ‘Interfaith’ beds because the group come from a very diverse mixture of faiths and backgrounds. The food grown at Awapuni Community Gardens is shared by the group and produce is also taken to local food banks.


Beth spends around three hours a week at the community garden over two sessions and the group has frequent working bees on weekends.


Representing 'Growing Gardens and Communities’, Beth is also a garden mentor for a newly-established initiative at Te Patikitiki Library in Highbury ‘Let’s Grow Highbury! Garden Hour’ (in association with Manawatū Food Action Network). These are drop-in sessions where people can learn garden skills, talk through seasonal changes in the garden, sample kai, share recipes and do some gardening together at the Te Patikitiki library garden.


Beth welcomes people to get in touch, whether to join the group or to talk about what they would like to see offered in terms of gardening workshops and skill-share events. 


Connect to ‘Growing Gardens and Communities’ via their Facebook page, or email Beth at growinggardensandcommunities@gmail.com.