May 2024

In The Beginning

The origin story of 24 Carrot Gardens is as much about why and when it started, as it is about where it’s going, and its generative social impact.

I have often reflected on how Kirsha and I grew up in different parts of the world, united by island geography: Guam, a US Island Territory in the western Pacific, and King Island, in the heart of the Roaring 40s in Bass Strait, Lutruwita/Tasmania. Our childhood experiences and relationship with food on those islands expanded across the two extremes of food culture. From the abundance of a veggie patch that was, at my home, bigger than the house I grew up in, to a reliance on mass produced, highly processed foods shipped hundreds of miles to back fill familial kitchen pantries.

These extremes are not only still evident today, but exist across a growing divide. The 24 Carrot Gardens program addresses this by designing, building and running kitchen garden programs in school communities across the state.

The seeds of 24 Carrot Gardens were sown decades ago, and its true beginnings can be traced back to New Orleans, USA. It was there that Kirsha’s immersion in the culture, arts and community catalysed her thinking on a deeper systems awareness of food. Spending over a decade there, she witnessed firsthand the transformative impact of youth engaging in the cultivation of food and the culinary arts. This experience would later inspire her as she relocated to a new island home on the other side of the world, and started working directly with schools.

Moonah Primary School 2014

Moonah Primary School 2014

Step forward to 2013. Several years after moving to Lutruwita/Tasmania, Kirsha connected with Angela Miezitis, then Principal of Moonah Primary School (MPS). Building on Ange’s expertise and experience in establishing the kitchen garden program at MPS, they hatched an ambitious plan to partner philanthropic funding with a handful of schools in Glenorchy with a simple and powerful vision: every school should have a kitchen garden.

Kirsha mused that if we could get DW* to sponsor the first school (Windermere Primary, less than 2km from MONA), other donors would follow. Using David's initial contribution as the carrot on the stick worked, and we soon had the resources to fund four schools, within months of starting.

Fundamental to the successful start-up of the project, was the establishment of a steering group and partnerships to guide project planning and development. Members included: Robert Sveen (Colony47), Marcus Ragus and Mark Fountain (Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens), Renate Hughes (Glenorchy City Council), Kirsha Kaechele and Angela Miezitis. This group provided hundreds of hours of volunteer time to advise and guide us in the first few years, for which we are eternally grateful.

Initially auspiced by the Royal Botanical Gardens from 2014 to 2015, we transitioned to an auspice relationship with Colony47 in 2016 — an arrangement that continued for six years. 

Between 2014 and 2021, the program grew from five to 17 schools, and in 2021, Kaechele

founded the charity Material Institute Lutruwita, to steward the program’s continued expansion bringing the current membership to 20 primary and four high schools statewide.

A special event at Bridgewater Community Centre in 2014!

Moving forward, we would love to see the original vision come to fruition: a 24 Carrot Garden in every Tasmanian school. As we celebrate a decade of designing, building and running kitchen garden programs in Lutruwita, it would be easy to launch into planning for the next decade. But we know the real power of school kitchen garden programs is the flow-on impacts to health and student engagement —and this is what we want to focus our attention on as we continue to support and steward the program at our existing schools. Well, at least for the next year! 

In 2025, we’ll celebrate our journey so far with our stellar team of foodies, gardeners, teachers and artists including our program managers, Reuben Parker-Greer, Tamas Oszvald, Kristina McCarthy, Simon Dunne, Andy Rushton and Joanne Dean. We would also like to acknowledge our dear friends and peers who have come and gone from the 24 Carrot community: Tristan Bunker, Renate Hughes, Dr Bridgette Watts, and of course Steve Devereaux, Director of Projects at MONA.

While there have been many individuals and organisations that have been instrumental in bringing us this far, there are too many to name individually… it does indeed take a village!

Keep an eye out for further announcements on our 10th year events and celebrations and we hope to see you there!

If you would like to support 24 Carrot Gardens into the future, become a Regular Donor today.

 *David Walsh, Husband of Kirsha Kaechele; Owner/Founder of MONA.

Words by Sarah Proud, Material Institute CEO

Glenorchy Primary School student cooking up a storm at MONA 2017