Keen gardeners, from left, Isabelle Percy, 6, with mum Sarah Percy, Roz Walker, Pam Shackleton and Roberta Kimmins. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
The age-old saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ is becoming a reality in Martinborough.
A community larder and garden with abundant fresh fruit and vegetables free for the taking are up and running thanks to public donations and a hardworking gardening team.
The initiatives are part of the Martinborough Healthy Community Project, spearheaded by Pam Shackleton, who first set up the larder in a bid to combat food wastage.
She said the aim was to give people the ability to eat nutritious foods, regardless of their income.
Mrs Shackleton is practice manager at Martinborough Health Centre, where the larder is based in the entranceway.
Anyone in need of fresh produce can walk in and pick up items to take home.
“There’s so much wastage out there, things fall off the trees and rot . . . and I was thinking it was pretty sad, because fruit and vegetables are a really important part of people’s diets but they can be very expensive.”
The whole community has got behind the idea, with people bringing in their surplus produce daily.
One woman brings in extra eggs and swaps them for vegetables, while a man drops off large boxes of plums he would never be able to eat on his own, Mrs Shackleton said.
“We’ve had plums and pears and lemons and lots of courgettes, very big ones from after Christmas, potatoes and even tomatoes.”
Karen and Phil Crisp, who own the town’s Unichem Pharmacy, donated a new fridge to increase the shelf life of veggies through summer.
Not long after setting up the larder last year, Mrs Shackleton began talks with other Martinborough locals, including clinical psychologist Roz Walker and Sue McLeary, about creating a community garden.
After a meeting in October attracting 27 people, a committee of was formed and the community garden was planted on a piece of private land offered up for the cause by Oxford St resident John Taylor.
A grant of $1000 from the Martinborough Community Board helped with establishment costs.
Garden committee chairwoman Roberta Kimmins said there were now plans to expand the garden and run educational workshops.
Volunteer gardener and nutritionist Sarah Percy said everyone involved in the project benefited.
“What’s really cool is we’re producing fruit and veggies free for the community but the volunteers get just as much, if not more, from it.
“They’re looking after their own wellbeing, being active outside, exercising and connecting with others.”
Two gardening bees take place each week, on Wednesday and Sunday mornings, and everything harvested from the land is taken to the larder.
Dr Walker said it was neat to see people utilising the larder and being creative, with one woman using her helping of veggies to make a week’s worth of baby food.
She said people could keep up to date with what was on the shelves through the Martinborough Community Garden Facebook page.
The garden is currently boasting cabbages, sweet corn, tomatoes, basil, kale, silver beet, celery, pumpkins and beans.
Other Martinborough Healthy Community Project initiatives include a walking group, which leaves Kitcheners Café at 8.30am each Friday, and a lifestyle programme.