Magic Harvest – a backyard revolution
24 March 2020

Magic Harvest – a backyard revolution

Have you ever yearned to grow your own produce at home and use the fruits of your labour in delicious home-cooked meals? During 2019 City of Onkaparinga responded to community demand and committed resources to an innovative food program.

Magic Harvest is a community program created to inspire home gardening and cooking fresh produce. Participants meet at a central hub and learn step-by-step how to grow and cook the food they would like to eat in a series of workshops. They then mirror this through growing food in their own gardens.

Created by McLaren Vale resident Tori Arbon, the Magic Harvest project centres on the belief that good healthy food delivers more than basic nourishment; it’s essential for our wellbeing. In addition, by learning the skills of food gardening and cooking fresh produce, we gain control of our food source.

The City of Onkaparinga has a history of working on food, health and wellbeing projects through the Community Connections team and Healthy Active Lifestyles Onkaparinga (HALO).

In 2019 City of Onkaparinga invited community leaders from across the region to train as Magic Harvest coordinators. These trainee coordinators were shown how to set up their own community hub and recruit participants, facilitate gardening and cooking workshops, and how to evaluate the program.

During the 2019 spring growing season, five community hubs were established across the City of Onkaparinga at:

  • Studio 20 Youth Centre
  • Neporendi and Reynella Neighbourhood Centre
  • Hackham Baptist Church
  • Grow and Harvest in Tatachilla
  • A resident’s front yard in Willunga.

The hubs were supported by HALO which provided funding for facilitation training as well as participant starter kits. Business support was provided by Bickleigh Vale Farm and SA Composters.

With training completed, the coordinators were tasked with recruiting participants within walking or cycling distance from the hub. Participants were encouraged to grow food in their own gardens, starting with one-square metre plots.

They met regularly at their local hub and learnt step-by-step how to grow and cook food they would like to eat in a series of workshops. This resulted in the creation of a local skills pool and progressed to a local trade opportunity with a produce swap, even stalls at local markets.

City of Onkaparinga Healthy Lifestyle Officer Linda Enright tells us her thoughts on the program.

“Magic Harvest encourages people to start small in growing their own food in their yard or even in containers. Sometimes it can be daunting to know where to start but through this program, participants are supported step-by-step in the community hub,” Linda says.

“Participants come together regularly to share their journey. They discuss tips of what worked well for them, they problem solve together and share their knowledge. And just as importantly, they eat together with food harvested from their garden.”

Willunga garden coordinator Amanda Fleming spoke about the positive effect that the Magic Harvest program has had on both her life and those of the program participants.

“Our group had a mixed knowledge base and we all supported each other and shared stories of our garden successes and failures,” Amanda says.

“The connections and friendships made with others in the local community have been invaluable.

“Most of all, it has been lots of fun.  We have visited other gardens, learned lots of new skills, shared excess produce, and tasted delicious food.

And a highlight Amanda says was trying homemade rhubarb wine.

“We are all good friends and plan to meet regularly,” Amanda says with a smile.

“I feel like I am contributing to the community and making a difference in people’s lives which is very rewarding. Becoming a Magic Harvest coordinator has given me new confidence and new connections that have been invaluable. I had not been working for several years after taking time off to have children. I am now working on new projects, and have just started my own business.”

During 2020 Magic Harvest will be running as a pilot program in three local schools in partnership with the Natural Resources Management Education team.

There will also be a new community hub established at Willunga Library.

To stay tuned and access online resources for starting your own Magic Harvest plot at home, visit their Facebook page.


Amanda and Sue share skills, food and a laugh; Elliot, Macey and Amanda with their freshly picked tomatoes; some of the produce from the garden; Amanda shows how you can grow food in a small space.

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