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Famous flowerbeds feeding needy families

1 July 20200 comments

Werribee Mansion’s historic parterre garden has been turned into a vegetable patch during the COVID-19 crisis to help feed needy families in Wyndham.

The flower beds, famous among gardeners across the world, is being used to grow silver beet that is being turned into meals for families struggling to put food on the table.    

Werribee Park Area Chief Ranger James Brincat said the initiative began as a plan to put a green crop into the parterre to rest the soil from the nutrient thirsty flowering crops it usually hosts.

“We came up with the idea to put in coloured silver beet which would give us a colourful show as well as organic matter to turn into the soil,” Mr Brincat said.

“But when the COVID-19 crisis came along we were presented with the possibility of food shortages or an increase in disadvantaged, refugee and asylum seeker families going without food over winter,” he said.

“So, we took things a step further and decide that rather than ploughing the plants back into the soil we’d harvest them and donate them to community kitchens cooking meals for disadvantaged groups in our community,” Mr Brincat said.

He said the initiative stemmed from the ‘Working Beyond the Boundaries’ partnership between Parks Victoria and refugee settlement agency AMES Australia and that it had been so successful in delivering both a fresh food and a winter show of colour in the gardens that it would become a regular winter program.

AMES Australia CEO Cath Scarth said the partnership had showed agility in being able to adapt to the exigencies of the COVID-19 crisis.

“This is a great outcome and shows what can be done with a bit of imagiinatin and initiative,” she said.

More than 480 kilograms of vegetables have been harvested from the parterre in recent weeks and have been sent to community groups providing food the disadvantaged, including the local Sikh Temple, which  produces a thousand free meals a week for anyone in need.

Another recipient, Encore Events’ community kitchen, is preparing 600 meals a week.

Encore chef Luciano Fuentes said that while the events centre at Encore was closed during the COVID-19 crisis, the centre was continuing to support the local community.

“Our dedicated team are here to assist and in a time where the events industry has been hit hard, our kitchen is still focused on the community, creating 600 meals a week for local families and individuals in need during a pilot program,” Mr Fuentes said.

“As always, Encore continues to support local, sourcing ingredients from local Werribee South farmers and suppliers,” he said.

The parterre was planted by Parks Victoria horticulture team Adam Smith, Hsar Thein Ju (pictured) and Adam Xerri.