The Watarrka Primary School fruit and veggie project has been a driving force in increasing awareness within the community on how to grow, maintain and cook healthy foods. The project is led by Christine Munro, teacher at the Watarrka Primary School, who began work on the veggie garden almost 5 years ago.
How the project began
The school previously had a greenhouse structure which was in disrepair and needed some serious work to be functional and fruitful. Christine, along with the help of the students began by clearing out this structure, repairing the irrigation and putting in the first
Since then, Christine has had help from various organisations including the Watarrka Foundation in the upkeep and donation of plants themselves. The Watarrka Foundation has donated a range of fruit trees which have been planted within the school. Remote Tours have helped with planting the fruit trees and produce, and have also assisted in setting up the watering system. Slow Foods have lent a hand with the building and construction work, which included a fence around the orchard.
The main purpose of the project
The purpose of the fruit and veg project is to educate the children and wider community on how to grow and maintain produce in harsher climates, with limited resources. This helps the local children and their families be exposed to the possibilities of growing, cooking and eating healthy produce.
The project is a great way to support and encourage healthy lifestyles among the children. By planting, maintaining and then harvesting the food they have an ownership over the process, and are able to take fresh produce home to their families as a treat.
Time in the garden is fun, and calming to the students, giving them a break from the classroom and an opportunity to connect with nature.
Christine Munro, teacher at the Watarrka Primary School said:
"The kids love the physicality of connecting with the earth, they find this very calming which is quite handy to settle the class down on a high energy day. They are very helpful when there is lots of seedlings to plant as they enjoy to watch the ones they’ve planted themselves grow over the weeks and months. So beside eating the produce, planting would be their favourite activity though they are all in when it comes time to harvest."
What's next for the fruit and veggie project
With 5 full years of growing experience up their sleeve, the staff and children at Watarrka Primary School have created thorough processes, resulting in successful crops from their orchard and veggie garden.
So far, the orchard and veggie garden has successfully produced: Celery, silver beet, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, kale, lettuce (many varieties), parsley, basil, mint, chilies, zucchini, tomatoes, grapes, leeks, strawberries, onions, capsicum, cucumber, watermelon, rock melon, pumpkins, oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruit, various limes, cumquats, figs, mulberries, spring onions, beetroot, fennel, cauliflower.
"It’s been a wonderful experience as there is actually less pests here than on the coast. We don’t use sprays, rarely need fertiliser and most of our plantings have been successful. We’ve had the occasional failure but generally things grow really well"
The latest experiment has been with sweet potato, which has been a big favourite amongst the families and children. The project will continue within the Watarrka Primary School, and the Watarrka Foundation plans to take these learnings to begin a similar initiative at the nearby Utjul Areyonga School.
To help support this ongoing project, head to our donation page here