Community garden offers taste of home

6th June 2020 | Alison Turner

A community garden is a great way to get out in the fresh air, make new friends and feel closer to nature. But one community garden in Adelaide’s north has done much more. It’s created a shared place of belonging and pride for the area’s refugees.

Amazing Northern Multicultural Services (ANMS) is a social welfare organisation in Davoren Park that provides support to new and emerging communities in northern Adelaide. The organisation started a community garden in 2016, and the venture has been so successful, there are now plans to expand the garden so more people in the community can benefit.

Muhama Yotham, 42, is the chairperson of ANMS. Originally from Burundi, Yotham spent several years in a refugee camp in Tanzania before arriving in Australia in 2005.

“The aim of the garden primarily was to bring the community together, like a social connection,” he says. “Because we theorised that many migrants, especially from an African background at that time in the area, were somehow isolated or vulnerable. There was not something which they could enjoy, that would bring them together. And we thought a community garden could be the best way to go.”

ANMS community garden
From little things, big things grow.

An a-maize-ing garden

When the garden first started, there were perhaps 20 members. Now there are around 100 active members. Even more come along for special events. These include working bees, as well as when the garden’s maize crop – its most popular produce – is ready for sale.

“People like to eat maize either by boiling, or roasting on the charcoal is really fantastic,” Yotham says. “Just like how you can eat corn, that’s how you can eat maize. You can cook it, you can mix it with other vegetables. You can do everything.

“But apart from that, if we have enough left after selling – which usually we don’t – once dry, it can be made into flour. And that flour we cook into a stiff porridge or cake.”

ANMS community garden maize
Snatch it while you can: the garden’s maize sells out in a day.

A place to call home

The garden’s maize is so popular, there have even been orders coming from interstate. The group also grows herbs and vegetables not often seen in Australia, such as African eggplant, African chilli and roselle – a plant from the hibiscus family. Now there are plans to expand the garden to grounds across the road. The community hopes to be able to produce other fresh foods from the gardeners’ homelands in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

Yotham says the community garden members are very excited about the success of their venture. A recent article about the garden featured on ABC News has even led to someone calling to offer the ANMS more land. But while the popularity of its produce is a wonderful byproduct of the venture, it’s what the community garden itself represents to the people of Davoren Park that matters most.

“The community members feel belonging, they feel that now this is home,” Yotham says. “They’re not missing anything they are missing before from back home. They are able to get it here, which is very, very exciting.

“More important, they feel connected. They feel that they can come together. They can remember what they used to do or eat back home. And so sometimes when we have a festival day, people want to stay there the whole time. They don’t want to go home!”

ANMS community garden
By the community, for the community.

For Yotham, both the garden and the ANMS are a source of enormous pride.

“I’m very proud that we initiated something which is made by the community for the community,” he says. “Those who are involved, they have a sense of ownership.

“Personally, this project reminds me that when people are given a chance to be able to show their ideas, they can do a lot.”