West Pymble local Nadine O’Regan and her children are leading somewhat of a fresh produce revolution in their suburb (and indeed the wider Ku-ring-gai area). Their popular Pink Pantry, located outside their home, provides free excess food from their garden, encouraging people to both enjoy fresh produce and to avoid waste. We recently caught up with Nadine to find out more about her family’s produce sharing initiative.
Tell me about the Pink Pantry; what is it, and when and where did the idea come from?
I belong to a Crop Swap group and the founder did something similar. The idea appealed to me: every good veggie garden produces excess, which should be shared not wasted. Sharing benefits everyone.
My daughter, Ella, was keen to manage it. We just happened to see an old rabbit hutch on a curbside pick-up, so we grabbed it, Ella chose the pink colour, and off we went! We embarked on this adventure as a family, and three generations are involved; my parents’ garden in the Hunter Valley contributes weekly.
Where do you think your passion for gardening comes from? How has this impacted your kids?
My mum is a keen gardener, as was her father. I have a real interest in ensuring my children understand where their food comes from and how to grow their own produce. Knowing the back-story to the food put on the table is an important part of life. Because of this my children also love the process. They love growing flowers; not just edible ones, or for the aesthetics, but for foraging bees.
What challenges have you encountered along the way?
One of the challenges is keeping the pantry stocked. I often rely on Ella to keep the Pink Pantry watered and tidy, as with 3 children, a business and a large garden, time is short. Herbs especially have a limited shelf life, so we still have waste some days. Others in the community add items, which ensures variety. We also grow things you can’t buy at the shops.
People often only take one or two stalks of something and leave the rest. I guess they don’t want to appear greedy – but if someone doesn’t take it, it goes to waste, so please grab whatever you’d like when you visit!
What has local reception been like thus far?
The response has been fabulous. We have met so many new people from the community. Some people knock on the door to thank us for having the Pink Pantry. Kids take seedlings and tell us they want to start a garden themselves, which is fantastic. It’s become a real community initiative, encouraging people to think about where they source their food, and about food waste.
Sometimes obscure items appear in the Pink Pantry, so locals should always pop by. There could be eggs, honey, herbs, bags of salad mixes, beautiful edible flowers, flowers and vegetable seedlings, coffee grinds for fertilizer, eggshells for the compost, or worm wee (a sought-after treat for the garden).
What kind of response have your children had to the project?
Long ago I determined that my children should understand enterprise and from that point of view it has helped them grasp that everything has a value. The Pink Pantry is Ella’s project. Occasionally a monetary donation is popped into the pantry to keep her keen, and although it is not a prerequisite, the donations are always gratefully received. Donations help her to buy more seeds, seed raising mix etc.
Can you tell me a bit about your connection to the area?
We moved into West Pymble four years ago. Our place has allowed us to expand my garden; I foster a native garden out front, and have added citrus, grapevines, bee hotels and a beehive to the back kitchen garden.
What do you love about life here?
We have made real connections in the area and love being here; there’s an amazing community spirit! Despite being a metropolitan suburb, it feels just that little bit quieter. There are so many trees, and a great community garden up at the West Pymble shops.
What are your favourite local places and hidden gems?
We enjoy grabbing a milk shake at Brick Lane or heading over to the Bowls Club for a bite. However, our favourite thing about the area is the people – if someone in the suburb needs assistance, there are always plenty of willing hands.