For all its seasonal produce, flowers, herbs and sprawling raised beds, Wandana Community Centre’s much-loved garden is less about plants and more about people.

“The garden is 10 per cent gardening and 90 per cent about community,’’ says caretaker, Alan Shepard.

“It provides an opportunity for people to socialise and come together to talk about what’s going on, not just in the garden but in their lives generally.

“There’s an acceptance here and that’s really important given it’s a low socio economic area with different challenges.’’

For the past 16 years, Alan has been the garden’s chief green thumb, nurturing the faces he toils alongside as much as the flora and fruit trees at the Blacks Rd site.

His efforts have been recognised with a semi-finalist nomination for the Friend to All category in the the Community Centres SA 2022 Sector Awards.

The Awards recognise the people and groups making a difference in community centres and houses across the state.

Wandana Manager Robyn Johnson said Alan had created a “community within a community’’ by creating an “all are equal, all are welcome” culture in the community garden.

Every Monday Alan guides a team of volunteers and participants who meet weekly to develop and maintain Wandana’s orchard, vegetable beds and native species, propagate seedlings and pick produce.

“His ambition to create an inclusive space for the local community, and his passion for organic gardening, has resulted in a vibrant outdoor space where people can make new friends while also learning and sharing gardening skills and experience,’’ Robyn said.

When he’s not at Wandana, Alan shares his love of gardening with the broader community by hosting workshops, such as how to farm compost, for the City of Port Adelaide Enfield.

“Alan has been the driver of the community garden and has supported clients, particularly those with disabilities, to partake in the centre’s gardening program,’’ said Lisa Osborne, Executive Manager of Relationship Support Services.

“He’s also passionate about sustainability. Fingers crossed for Alan.”

The Awards will be announced on Thursday, November 3 at a dinner at Grunthal Brew, Verdun.

*The community garden is on the lookout for more participants. Volunteers and community members meet from 9am every Monday and work through the morning stopping for a cuppa and chat. For more information, phone Wandana Community Centre on 8261 8124.