Earthcare – a place to learn and thrive but for how long ?

By Megan Hounslow:

There’s this awesome space on the Hawkesbury campus that is regularly buzzing with life, with people cooking together, vegetables being tended to, and informative workshops being held in the mud brick house. This place is Earthcare.

Set on a 1 hectare block within the University campus, the site comprises a community built mud brick house which demonstrates multiple sustainable living concepts, including rammed earth walls, passive solar heating, and a composting toilet (look them up, they are actually really cool and not as gross as they may sound!).  The rest, and majority of, the site is gardens, designed upon permaculture principles, where various community groups within and outside of the university can come and grow their own herbs, vegetables and fruit.

Let me set the scene for you…

Ginger is grown in one of the garden beds, its lush leafy tops hiding beneath the soil an immense array of intertwined ginger roots. This ginger then gets made into a crafty ginger-beer by a dozen people at a weekend workshop.

A rogue honeybee swarm makes residence in the side of the heritage-listed piggery on the site, next to our large avocado tree, which you don’t often see avocados on unfortunately. The bees are there for a bit whilst a bee keeper who can take the bees safely can be found, and in that time, hey presto, the avocado tree produces avocadoes!

The wonders of the bees and the birds in nature!

Visiting international guests ranging from students on exchange to business people tour through the site, many expressing great wonder at the beauty of Earthcare and how lucky we are to have it.

Students can be found before or after classes busy at work in their club plot or discussing their next event on the site, or just relaxing away from the books and admiring nature underneath the apple tree (I admit to doing this a number of times!)

Speaking of clubs, a number of student clubs run out of or regularly use the Earthcare site.

Greenthumbs is a student club all about growing your own fresh and tasty food and getting to know gardening. It has a large plot on the Earthcare site, from where they grow everything from mint to tomatoes to potatoes, all of which is then taken, used and eaten by students (for free!)

The Student Farm, a newly formed start-up born out of the Social Engagement and Leadership Program (SELP), is using a plot at the Earthcare site as a comparison plot for the Student Farm site research.

All about food, Youth Food Movement Greater Western Sydney, another student club, held its launch event the One Mile Dinner under the eaves of the mudbrick house patio. Some of the food on the night was grown at Earthcare too!

Earthcare is a learning space, and has been for over 20 years, run by community members and students through the not-for-profit Henry Double Day organisation. It has been a mainstay feature of the Hawkesbury campus over this time, and one of the few strong linkages between it and the local community.

Yet here lies our dilemma.

Our future is looking uncertain at best so we need to drum up student support for the centre, to say to the University that the Earthcare site is valued, that students want a green space where they can learn, relax and cultivate their food literacy, that we want to learn more about sustainability, about growing our own food, and about creating skills that will last a lifetime.

SIGN the petition to save the Earthcare Centre here

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3 Responses to Earthcare – a place to learn and thrive but for how long ?

  1. Marianne McMillan November 12, 2015 at 8:34 pm #

    Excellent article, Megan.
    So nice to read the enjoyment others get out of EarthCare. Such pity that we can’t get more students to take an interest. But that applies to the general public, everyone is just so darn busy. EarthCare is one place where one can slow down, we are not into speed gardening, but into enjoying the experience fully, it is so relaxing and rewarding on many levels.
    I agree that it should be promoted instead of hanging under a cloud. Often one only realises what one has thrown away after it is all lost. Let’s hope the uni wises up and keeps the place in the hands of ATA and HDRA and the people who built the mud house and have been tending the gardens for twenty years. I might even finish painting the tank …

  2. Michelle November 14, 2015 at 7:29 pm #

    Totally awesome article Megan. You have really captured the spirit of EarthCare!

    If anyone would like to join the Green Thumbs and learn more about organic gardening, sustainability and permaculture, we are open to all WSU students from every campus. We meet every second Saturday for gardening. Join us on OrgSync, to check out dates and times & connect with us on Facebook (Western Sydney U Green Thumbs).

    Everyone is welcome 🙂

  3. Aaron Brocken February 23, 2016 at 7:10 am #

    Well said Megan. It’s great to see a growing number of students getting into EarthCare and to hear how much it means to you.