Rotary sponsors new gate for village garden

Jenny Findlay, Somerset West Village Garden founder and director, cuts the ribbon to open the gate donated by Somerset West Rotary Club, assisted by Rotarian Elspeth McFarlane.

Somerset West Village Garden (SWVG) recently celebrated its fourth anniversary, and the installation of a gate by Rotary Club of Somerset West.

Speaking at the official opening of the gate, Jenny Findlay, SWVG founder and director said: “The gate is such a blessing for us because we have parking outside on the road, and we thought that it would be much better to have an entrance from the parking lot on the other side of the garden, especially on vegetable sale days (usually Tuesdays).

“Now we have a small pedestrian gate which has been generously sponsored by the Rotary Club of Somerset West.

“We are really grateful for the support, because it allows us to free up parking on the road.”

Speaking about the SWVG fourth birthday, Jenny said: “Thinking back to our years ago when we started the project, I can hardly believe that the time has gone by so quickly.

“We’ve had such wonderful support from the community and businesses in the area, and that’s the reason why we’ve gotten to where we are today.

“I can’t believe that this garden was just a tip when we started.

“There were vagrants here, a mess of broken glass and bottles, but with the help of the street people, we’ve managed to tidy it up and to build it into this flourishing, green oasis, this urban farm that we’ve got today.

“We’re learning as we go, because it is a new model for working with street people.

“We give them a token for every hour they work which they can then exchange for food and clothing. It’s catching on and they are getting used to the idea.

“Today, we’ve got 31 people working here, and we started with one person when we started the garden four years ago so we must be doing something right.

“We have partnered with the Thomas House of Hope which stepped in and agreed to run a shop at its centre. The people working here can now go and exchange their tokens for food at Thomas House of Hope.”

A further major development was the drilling of a borehole, which alleviates the difficulty the garden had in accessing water during the recent drought.

“The borehole was funded by the Department of Agriculture. We’ve had the water tested and we’re now waiting to put in the solar panel which is going to power the pump.

“We’re so happy that we can be green and use solar power for the borehole and that we can get off the grid, water-wise. It was a big problem trying to keep this garden going without water, but now, the end of that problem is in sight, and we’re so excited about that.”

Jenny said the water is suitable with a couple of adjustments.

“There’s a little bit of mud in suspension, but I do believe that will settle once the borehole settles, and we do also have iron in the water, but we have quite a few tanks, one of which we’ll use as a settling tank.

“There’s no salt in the water, which we are delighted about because plants can cope with a bit of iron, that they can’t cope with salt.”

Elspeth McFarlane, representing Rotary, said: “Rotary always likes to support sustainable projects and it gives us great pleasure to provide SWVG with this gate, which means that when garden shoppers come and buy vegetables, they can park in the parking area, rather than causing congestion in New Street.

“We’ve been associated with the village garden for quite a while, but it’s the first time we’ve been able to do something concrete to help them.”