Goodbye Tuggerah Hall, hello Community Gardens!

Adults and children sharing a meal at the garden

Our most recent executive meeting for Permaculture Central Coast included much good discussion, particularly around how we are going to respond to COVID in the longer term, because it’s clearly here to stay for the foreseeable future. 

Why we’re leaving the Tuggerah Hall

Sandi Eyles outlined the COVID requirements for gathering at the hall and pointed out that under the guidelines we need to have all doors open, everyone masked and we cannot use the overhead fans. She also suggested that we consider outdoor venues as an alternative. After throwing around lots of ideas we agreed on the following:

Hall Gatherings under COVID will not be pleasant. We have concerns about the possibility of one (or more) of our vulnerable members becoming infected at one of our events. Not people care!

Outdoor venues have a much lower risk for infection, providing much better people care. Switching to outdoor venues would also mean switching to day time meetings. Navigating outdoor venues at night is difficult for those with vision impairment or physical limitations. Sunday afternoons are a better option for most people (taking into account school sport requirements, religious observance, and full time workers). It is acknowledged that no matter which day we choose it will not suit everyone. 

Timing would need to allow for the differences in temperature and light from summer to winter (cooperate with nature!) 

On rainy days we are now capable of easily transitioning to Zoom or simply rescheduling. Changing the venue each month to different locations around the Coast would share the time and cost of driving to gatherings more equitably and would make permaculture more accessible to more people. We would also be able to facilitate some of our older, long term members being able to join us from time to time.

The existing community garden network provides numerous permaculture-aligned outdoor venues. Meeting at community gardens would be mutually beneficial as the gardens might also pick up some new volunteers. There are also private options like Firescreek Winery (who host our monthly produce share), private homes (like our place) and public places including national parks and reserves. 

Meeting during the day at outdoor venues would provide an option for people to come earlier and picnic or to get together afterwards for dinner.

Slide show type presentations are better suited to ZOOM and we will continue to offer this type of event to members, no matter where they live. This allows all members to engage with presenters regardless of location, disability or other circumstances. Huge thanks to Kerrie Anderson for the amazing job she’s done bringing us wonderful presenters, including Suzie German tonight! But we do know that not everyone enjoys the online space, and it will be great to meet face to face again. 

Holding day time events in the open air will provide more opportunity for ‘hands on’ type workshops and events, as well as ‘show and tell’ type events where members bring something along to talk about. They also make it much easier for children to be involved in our gatherings and there is the potential to provide activities specifically for children if there is sufficient interest. 

Our first outdoor gathering

PCC will move our regular monthly gatherings from the third Tuesday of the month to the third Sunday of the month, starting on Sunday the 20th of March from 3.00pm to 5.00pm at the Peninsula Community Garden. Our first ever presenter in this new format will be Karyne Ang, an accomplished local permie with expertise in growing lots of wonderful and unusual Asian food plants. Karyne will be sharing her knowledge on how she grows this food and how she cooks it.

The move to outdoor venues will require all of us to creatively respond to change. Bring your own snacks, drinks and perhaps a folding chair. Most venues have some kind of under-cover area but hats or umbrellas for sun protection would be a good idea. You are welcome to come early and wander the garden or have a picnic. We hope to see you there!

Please note that there is no public toilet at this venue. 

Future gatherings will be held in different outdoor locations across the Central Coast from 2pm to 4pm during Eastern Standard Time, and from 3pm to 5pm during Daylight Saving Time. Children are welcome. A schedule of locations will be provided to all members as far in advance as we can arrange them (hopefully 12 months) so that people know when a gathering will be happening near them. 

Online meetings on Zoom

In the short term, we will also continue offering something via Zoom on the third Tuesday, when we previously held our hall gatherings. If there’s sufficient interest and volunteers to make it happen we can continue doing this in addition to our Sunday get togethers.

We still need to figure out which aspects of the hall gatherings will continue, and much of this will be dependent upon the volunteers. Some might not be able or prepared to travel to different venues. Much like a new garden we will be tweaking and interplanting as we go. We’d love to hear your ideas and your feedback.

We’re also very excited about chatting with permaculture legend, Morag Gamble about the permaculture ethic of “Fair Share” via Zoom from 8.30pm to 9.30pm on Tuesday the 22nd of February. We will send the Zoom link out to all registered people the day before the event.

The Dream Team volunteers are excited for our new format and for the opportunity to keep working collaboratively to get more permaculture happening across our region. Thank you for being part of that. 

Meg McGowan
Permaculture Central Coast

Photo by Peninsula Environment Group