Sikh temple community garden growing food to share

"I am a Muslim," says another offender, "but the Sikh community welcomes me, and appreciates the work we ...

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I was not prepared for the odd feeling of homecoming I felt when I drove through the gates of the Sikh temple grounds in the south Auckland suburb of Takanini, roughly 30km from the city centre.

I am not of the Sikh faith, and was not quite sure what to expect when I went to see their community garden. 

We had heard vague reports of volunteers planting acres of vegetables and fruits to feed thousands, and projects to share knowledge about food production and sustainability. There was talk of working with offenders and educators, and helping the needy.

It all sounded idealistic, yet complicated, so I had to see it for myself...

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...In short, it is a virtuous cycle of sustainability that invests in multiculturalism, diversity, civic duty, social responsibility, horticultural knowledge and yes, pure faith in that old adage about giving and receiving.   

Yet, what is going on here is not immediately obvious, even to the most idealistic eyes.

The fruit and nut trees spread out on the edges of the property are barely shoulder height, sitting in bark mulch, and dwarfed still by palms and yuccas that are themselves struggling for some dignity on the edges of the vast, drab carpark (there are enough bays for hundreds of cars). Weeds and grass chomp at the edges of cultivated areas which are productive but purely functional. To the west of the temple, an empty site promises sports fields, daycare facilities and other community-centred amenities; right now though, it's a lot of mud and sand and heavy equipment. 

So what accounts for the rush of homecoming I felt? Is it because growing food is the reason I garden? Or is it that no-one is truly a stranger here.

Such ideals seem incongruous with our times, but then again, gardeners have always been optimists, so here's to them all living together happily ever after. 

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