Gardens and culture a link between people – Margaret Kenning, Waratah/Mayfield Community Garden

Margaret Kenning tries every bit of exotic food she can. Will try anything at least once, she says.

As overseer of the Waratah/Mayfield Community Garden, she couldn’t be in a better place to do so.

For nearly the past five years, she’s been a constant at the garden, which is part of Hunter Multicultural Communities (HMC) Inc.

She says the garden can play an important role in the fostering multicultural relations in the community.

“I try to grow unusual things; if there’s an unusual plant or vegetable, I’ll grow it,” Ms Kenning said.

“It’s lovely when different ethnic people come and I show them around the garden, and all of sudden they spot a plant they remember from their homeland.

“They get so excited that I’m actually growing something like that.”

The garden has 11 different nationalities spread across about 25 listed members. From time to time, refugees will visit the garden, which Ms Kenning says builds her compassion and enthusiasm for multiculturalism.

“We don’t know how lucky we are,” she said.

Members predominately meet at the garden, located on the former Waratah Bowling Club site, on Wednesdays. Morning tea and a “cuppa” provides an opportunity for more than just getting their hands dirty.

Much of the produce grown is used for cooking in a variety of cultures. Ms Kenning says her own love of ethnic food extends back to when she was a child.

“My father worked at BHP after the war when all the displaced people came out from Europe,” she said.

“He worked with the Polish, the Germans, the Italians – you name it. He used to come home with all these weird and wonderful things.

“He used to swap his lunch, it was their lunches he’d bring home. He brought home unusual vegetables and grew them.

He was a good gardener, both him and my grandma, and that’s where I learned to love gardening.

“I’ve loved all that unusual stuff ever since.”

Ms Kenning says she attends all of HMC’s events.

“I find it fascinating, all the customs,” she said. “They have different functions through the year. Whether they’re Chinese, Muslim, Nepalese… I just love it, meeting the people – they’re all so lovely.

“It’s what I love about that place, everyone’s involved and everybody’s friendly.”

Photo: Newcastle Herald

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Newcastle Herald