RISING living costs and the search for fresh produce have pushed Dubbo residents back to the backyard.
That's the opinion of Orana Education and Training Co-operative (OEC) community garden chairman Donald Stephens.
Mr Stephens said the OEC community garden was a great place for residents who lived in flats and had no room to grow their own vegetables or fruit.
"There are too many people in the community who I think haven't enjoyed the thrill of growing their own food," he said.
"It saves you a bit of money, you can guarantee freshness and it is better than buying your food from the supermarket."
Mr Stephens said there were minimal differences between the Dubbo Community Garden and the OEC community garden.
"We don't have a community kitchen but any food grown in our garden can be used by the individual to use it in whatever way they want and some people donate their produce to others," he said.
Almost 80 people used 50 patches to grow their own fresh produce which cannot be sold for profit.
Tomatoes, beans, lettuce, carrots and beetroot were among the most popular produce grown followed closely by strawberry and herbs.
Mr Stephens said several groups such as Mission Australia and Break Thru also used the OEC community garden as a therapy method.
"It is a good way for people to unwind, build on a different interest and do something which they can see their own success in," he said.
"Just being able to do something physical must be helpful both in the short and long term."
He said many people who had problems came and enjoyed the outing at the OEC community garden.
The best part of being the chairman was seeing people who did not have the opportunity to have a garden in their homes grow their own fresh produce, he said.
"When you grow your own food you keep the flavours intact and you pick it at the right time not waiting for it to ripen as it travels hundreds of kilometres to reach you," he said.
One of the challenges the OEC community garden faced was controlling fruit fly.
Last year a large amount of tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant and other produce were destroyed thanks to fruit fly.
He said there would be a stricter and more controlled approach this year with fruit fly traps and nets over the produce to limit the damage.
Mr Stephens encouraged Dubbo residents to grow their own food and join the OEC community garden.
"Come down and have a look," he said.
"We have a regular barbecue for members and it is a great place to socialise."
The OEC community garden meets the first Sunday of each month.
To join call Donald Stephens on 6882 5226 or 0418219185.