Empty-nester uses gardening skills to feed community

A Dunedin woman’s attempt to beat empty-nest syndrome has turned into an effort to help feed her community.

Dr Helen Beattie turned her backyard in Corstorphine into a collection of planter boxes filled with vegetables and native plants.

"I have a lot of room, a little motivation, some great friends who will come and help, so we'll see how it goes," Dr Beattie said.

"It’s a little bit because I'm empty nesting next year and a little bit because of the cost of living and food security for people in the community."

She would not say she was necessarily an expert gardener, but she did grow more than enough to feed herself and help other people along the way, she said.

Dr Helen Beattie is turning her backyard into a vegetable-growing plot to help feed the community...
Dr Helen Beattie is turning her backyard into a vegetable-growing plot to help feed the community: PHOTO GREGOR RICHARDSON
"My awkwardness is I'm not very good at this. I'm just really keen to help.

"I’m growing all this food — I just don't want it to go to waste," she said.

The food box had started out strong already, one woman coming to collect parsnips and silverbeet.

"She was very thankful, and she said she was going to have mashed carrots and parsnips with butter and pepper, so that was good."

Dr Beattie, who was raised in a rural community, remembers a time when everybody had flourishing vegetable gardens in their backyards.

"I grew up in the high country, and everybody had a garden in really remote places like that.

"So everybody did lots of gardening and it always seemed to be successful.

"Then when I started gardening I would have years when I had crop failure, which made me so cross, so it was a bit of a learning curve."

Dr Beattie was also involved in helping run the National Food Strategy Campaign parliamentary petition which would be presented to the house in the next government.

"The underpinning thing that falls out of the campaign is locally produced food and how we don’t have anybody responsible for it.

"So I thought, right, I can do something to help with that."

Dr Beattie will be putting produce she has grown into a stall set up in front of her house.