Urban Agriculture Forum 2016

Feedback and Review

The University of Melbourne, Burnley Campus, November 20-21 2016

Henry Crawford, Sustain: The Australian Food Network


“Loved the venue, loved the tour of the research station, food was more than generous. I am over 70 and conference weary but this was one of the best conferences I’ve ever been to. Well done!!! It was diverse in speakers and attenders, it was well organised, succinct and generally inspiring.”

“An excellent forum, passionate, committed people doing some sensational work.  A real (and necessary!) antidote to the negativity of the wider world!”

“This was an outstanding forum. Multiple ideas, fantastic attendees, great range of ages and backgrounds. It broke the mold for me. Wonderful.”

 Attendees, 2016

UAF 2016

The 2016 Urban Agriculture Forum was held at the University of Melbourne’s Burnely Campus on November 18-19, a collaborative initiative between Sustain: The Australian Food Network, The University of Melbourne, 3000 Acres, Cultivating Community, The City of Yarra, Moreland Food Gardens Network and the Port Phillip EcoCentere.

For its first instalment Sustain wanted to showcase a group of speakers that reflected the diversity of urban agriculture practices both in Australia and internationally. The speakers at this years event represented a mix of state and local government, the education, university and TAFE sectors, designers and urban planners, urban farmers, community and backyard gardeners, chefs and restaurateurs, food social enterprise and retail businesses, health professionals, emergency food relief providers, and food rescue and resource management authorities.

The diversity of speakers and topics was the trademark of this year’s event, and achieved Sustain‘s objective of;

  • Bringing together practitioners and policy-makers from across the urban and peri- urban food landscape to build a shared understanding of what urban agriculture is, and the benefits and opportunities it can offer in the Australian context
  • Acknowledging and celebrating the achievements of the urban agriculture movement over the past decade (and in some cases before) in Australia, both at the community and local government levels
  • Sharing lessons of good and best practice urban agriculture models, as well as failures and successes both locally and internationally

Feedback

When we asked the attendees what their primary purpose was in attending the forum, the majority of respondents were interested in being  part of building an urban agriculture movement in Australia (67%). This was very closely followed by networking objectives (to meet like-minded colleagues and build networks), to hear about urban agriculture initiatives in Australia, and to learn about urban agriculture best practice in Australia and overseas.

With future forums in mind, the question was posed asking what particular area(s) of urban agriculture or a specific partner(s) / presenter(s) we should consider? Some popular responses included:

  • Net value infrastructure
  • Infrastructure and innovation
  • Waste Management / Composting
  • Innovative farming methods
  • Local Food Mapping
  • Health and Wellbeing Objectives
  • Commercial Urban Agriculture / Career Urban Farming
  • Community Development
  • Plant Propagation
  • Food Sharing Mechanisms
  • Green Roofs /Walls
  • Manufacturing / Planning & Construction / Transportation Sectors
  • Geoff Lawton (PRI)
  • The Diggers Club
  • FoodSwell
  • Prof. Cynthia Mitchell (ISF, UTS)
  • Dr Peter May (UOM)

In response to post forum actions, the majority of respondents (40%) want to see an advocacy platform aimed at State and local governments for greater recognition of and support for urban agriculture. Other actions included; Developing a city-wide urban agriculture network / coalition (25%) and Staying in contact with those who attended the Forum (25%). Sustain also asked the attendees to select the forum sessions that appealed most strongly to their areas of interest. With all thirteen sessions receiving a similar scoring, the feedback suggests that the diversity in topics at this year’s event appealed broadly to the interests of the attendees. With that in mind, there were several sessions that appealed across the board, the five most popular sessions in no particular order being:

The Role of Local Government in Urban Agriculture: Kathi Orsanic-Clark (City of Yarra), Lee Tozzi (City of Darebin), Greg Jacobs (City of Melbourne), Nick Rose (Sustain), Kat Lavers (Hobsons Bay City Council)

Intangible and Hard to Measure Benefits Pablo Oliveri (Pro Huerta), Miriam Issa (RAW), Costa Georgiadis (Gardening Australia), Claire Hetzel (Horticultural Therapist)

Urban Farming in Australia: Michael Zagoridis (Pocket City Farms), Morag Gamble (SEED), Anthea Fawcett (Remote Indigenous Gardens Network)

Peri-Urban Agriculture: Rachel Carey (University of Melbourne – Foodprint Melb), Annemaree Docking (City of Whittlesea – Land Capability Assessment) Chris Williams)

Designing Sustainable Cities: Laura Phillips (Neometro), Sally Burgess (Victrack), Dan Green (Melbourne Water), Henk de Zeeuw, Brian Coffey (RMIT).

(See here for full list of 2016 speakers)

Sustain would again like to thank The University of Melbourne’s Burnley Campus for hosting the event, all the speakers but particularly those from interstate and our keynote speakers from the Netherland’s Debra Solomon and Henk de Zeeuw, the steering group members, our sponsors, and the fantastic catering from Kinfolk, all of which contributed to make this event possible. We would also like to thank all the attendees who took the time to provide feedback on the event. Sustain looks forward to inviting you to future Urban Agriculture Forums!

 

Celebrating Urban Agriculture in Australia

Growing #urbanagriculture across Australia

Henry Crawford, Sustain: The Australian Food Network


A leading objective of the 2016 Urban Agriculture Forum was sharing the lessons of best practice urban agriculture models from around Australia. Despite the value gained in looking at urban agriculture practices overseas, it is important to acknowledge the progress and celebrate what has been achieved in urban agriculture around Australia over the past few decades.

Recognising this, in addition to the urban agriculture practitioners from around Victoria that spoke at the Forum, Sustain invited representatives from Queensland (Morag Gamble – SEED), New South Wales (Michael Zagoridis – Pocket City Farm) and the Northern Territory (Anthea Fawcett – Remote Indigenous Gardens Network) to share their lessons and celebrate their successes from interstate. As part of the objective, Sustain: The Australian Food Network has compiled a number of case studies of urban agriculture models from around the country, with the intention to celebrate and share the richness and diversity of urban agriculture as it exists today in Australia.

A.C.T – Canberra City Farm

Photo courtesy of Canberra City Farm

Photo courtesy of Canberra City Farm

The Canberra City Farm (CCF) is a not-for-profit volunteer based organisation that creates opportunities for practical action-based education and demonstration for growing and enjoying healthy foods and sharing sustainable living practices.  It was incorporated in the ACT in 2012 with many of the CCF activities undertaken in collaboration with other like-minded groups and businesses within the ACT and nearby areas of NSW.

Following successful displays at Floriade in 2013 and 2014, and a small demonstration site at the inner city suburb of Turner, CCF was granted a ten year licence in 2015, with an option for a further ten years, to use a two hectare site at Fyshwick, ACT.  This new site is in the early days of development and provides an ideal opportunity for CCF to create a leading-edge demonstration site for all Canberrans and nearby residents to experience how they can live more sustainably within their ordinary urban block.  The size of the site allows CCF to provide practical demonstrations of healthy sustainable food production on scales ranging from balconies, through moderate size courtyards and normal backyards, up to commercial market gardens.  Skill sharing is facilitated by hosting on-site gardening and market gardening courses which includes information about the impact of food production on healthy soils and environmental health, and provides volunteering opportunities for members in its demonstration gardens. In the future there will also be workshops and courses on healthy and sustainable food preparation and consumption.  

CCF is also a hub for connecting local groups, farmers, food producers and urban people.  Through the CCF food box initiative, urban dwellers are connected with local and regional food producers helping to bridge the urban-rural divide and connect people to the local food economy.

In addition to the CCF focus on creating demonstrations of sustainable food growing, it is also showcasing sustainable building techniques and demonstrating renewable energy options.  A demonstration building is currently being developed that provides options for improving the efficiency of homes, decreasing energy/water use, as well as demonstrating options for energy generation and water harvesting.

CCF is a place for enjoying communal space, a pleasant space for social gatherings and a learning hub where the community can creatively share knowledge and experience of socially, economically and environmentally responsible food production and sustainable living.

TASMANIA – Hobart City Farm

Photo courtesy of Hobart City Farms

Photo courtesy of Hobart City Farms

Hobart City Farm are a not-for profit, urban farming, social enterprise focused on creating meaningful livelihoods and a vibrant, local and resilient food system. They started working on this idea in 2012, found the land in 2014 (belonging to the state government) and broke ground in early 2015. They farm just over 1200m2 of what was once neglected, compacted grass in central New Town. Now entering their second growing season they sell their produce through an online shop and to a limited amount of local restaurants.

The farm is passionate about investing in local and regional food systems so the community has reliable access to nutritious food. At a time where farmers are walking off their land and the average age of Australian farmers is over 55, they are walking onto vacant land and re-embracing one of the most important jobs in the world.

Growing food in the heart of the community is seen as a way to rebuild a healthy food culture, connecting people with where their food comes from and the people who grow it. Rather than being controlled by a small handful of multinational agribusiness and food distributors, Hobart City Farm are serious about creating  

a food system in which people have the opportunity to choose, create and manage their food supply from paddock to plate”

NEW SOUTH WALES – Pocket City Farms

Photo courtesy of Pocket City Farms

Photo courtesy of Pocket City Farms

 Working to bring urban farms to Sydney’s unused spaces, Pocket City Farms have recently opened their first farm on the abandoned bowling greens at Camperdown Bowling Club.

Pocket City Farms is a not-for-profit association established and run by a crew of skilled individuals, who are motivated and passionate about urban farming and sustainability. With a team of five board members the farm is managed by two of the co-founders, Emma Bowen and Michael Zagoridis.

The farm is a hub around which the local community can gather to learn about all things farming and food growing, to buy super-local, chemical-free produce, participate in our composting program, and take part in many workshops and events. Importantly, the farm is a place to visit and enjoy productive green space in the city, a place to sink your feet in the soil, and learn all about where exactly our food comes from and how it’s grown.

The bowling greens have been converted into 1200m2 of market garden using organic practices to grow vegetables, herbs and salad greens. A greenhouse has been established to grow seedlings for the market garden and for sale to the public, and a 16 metre compost unit has been established for a community composting program to turn over food scraps from local’s homes.

The farm is a community hub of local food production and education. It is a community oriented social enterprise and a showcase of urban farming, following international examples that have proven to be positive examples for facilitating changes in urban communities. A diverse range of the community visits the farm for a range of activities.

Weekly volunteer opportunities are available to all, with community members regularly signing up to come and get their hands in the soil. Community and school groups are able to coordinate interactive group sessions and private tours on the farm. A farm gate stall operates every Saturday morning with the local community coming to buy the produce that was grown just a block or two from their homes.

Regular workshops are held every week or two at affordable prices to provide education for all ages and backgrounds on growing food, composting, cooking, preventing food waste, and other areas of food, garden, lifestyle and health. A demonstration garden has been set up to help facilitate these workshops and showcase how to grow food on a small scale at home.

The farm is also host to weekly yoga classes, while many come to simply use the area as a socially interactive green space. The street verge of the farm has also been planted out with edibles and will become a 180m2 food forest that will provide free food for local residents.

VICTORIA – FareShare

Photo courtesy of FareShare Melbourne

Photo courtesy of FareShare Melbourne

FareShare is a not-for-profit food relief organisation that turns rescued and donated food into nutritious meals. The beginnings of FareShare were humble. In 2001 a pastry chef used food waste to create approx. 300 pies that were then distributed to people experiencing food insecurity. Since then, the focus has not changed but FareShare has expanded meal production to more than 1,000,000 meals annually and has the equivalent of 16 FT staff. The more than 800 regular volunteers are the backbone of the organisation.

With the aim of increasing access to fresh vegetables, FareShare started growing food at three sites in 2016. One staff member is employed to manage the garden program, with support from existing administrative and operational staff. Over 125 volunteers have helped create and maintain the gardens.

FareShare is piloting the garden program. Increasing the contribution to the core operation is key to the continuation of the program. Currently the Baguley farm is the only location where FareShare has the capacity to produce large amounts of food at low cost. The Baguley’s give invaluable guidance and allow FareShare to use part of their farm at no cost.

The vision for the future is to access additional agricultural sites and increase the production of fresh food. FareShare also aims to build on opportunities for increasing social benefits through the garden program.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA – Green World Revolution (GWR)

Photo courtesy of Green World Revolution

Photo courtesy of Green World Revolution

GWR is a not-for-profit environmental social enterprise, growing jobs for the unemployed. They provide pathways to sustainable livelihoods for people who are suffering from long-term unemployment, so they can improve their health and personal well-being and be relieved from poverty that comes from a reliance on social security payments. In 2013 the first urban farm was established in Gladstone Street East Perth. From this 400m2 site they now deliver fresh produce four days a week on bicycles, to 30 restaurants and cafes.

Since mid-2015 GWR have successfully created ten completely new, paid-work opportunities for previously long-term unemployed people involved in urban farming projects at this site.

By producing local food for local businesses, GWR is also helping to reduce pollution associated with food transportation and reducing waste by collecting and composting restaurant food waste and reusing substantial amounts of packaging.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA – The Food Forest

Photo courtesy of The Food Forest

Photo courtesy of The Food Forest

The Food Forest is a 19 hectare permaculture farm and learning centre on the northern Adelaide Plain. It grows 150 varieties of food and wine, principally  for the Adelaide and Gawler farmers markets and teaches some 14 short courses per year including Permaculture Design Certificates and topics such as Building with Straw Bales, Organic Vegetable Production and Free Range Poultry Management. It runs a schools program, public tours, a restoration project on the nearby Gawler River and is involved in regional natural resource, fire and water management.

Annemarie and Graham Brookman started the farm in 1983 to test and demonstrate the success of Permaculture ethics and design in creating a sustainable future for human occupation of the planet, to provide a beautiful place for their children to grow up and a sustainable income. It provides employment for five people and offers placements along the lines of WWOOFing. Local volunteers are also a feature of the Food Forest community.

The Food Forest nursery makes a range of well adapted fruit trees available to the public at realistic prices to encourage the development of edible landscapes.

The nutrient cycle of the farm revolves around composting of byproducts from on-site food processing and use of composted ‘waste’ food and green material from the city. Irrigation water includes roof run-off as well as purified wastewater from the farm and region. Being certified organic, the  management of the farm poses no incompatibility issues with the surrounding city.

It has provided inspiration for thousands of students and visitors to become more food-secure and self-reliant and has been recognised in many state and national food and environmental awards.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA  – Village Greens

Photo courtesy of Village Greens

Photo courtesy of Village Greens

Village Greens of Willunga Creek is a diversified ½ acre market garden situated in the Aldinga Arts Ecovillage, on the urban periphery of Adelaide. The Ecovillage is home to over 130 households, with an emphasis on permaculture, environmental sustainability and community arts. Almost half the land of ecovillae is dedicated to a 17Ha farm, and, along with Village Greens, it features several orchards, woodlots, a community wastewater recycling plant, bee hives, free range hens, and sheep.

Village Greens broke ground in January 2015, and is run by Nat Wiseman and Lucy Chan. Nat has a background in urban planning, and has always had a passion for urban agriculture and small-scale, appropriate farm tools and technology. Prior to starting Village Greens, he and some friends started Wagtail Urban Farm, a micro urban farm in the suburbs of Adelaide. That experience showed him that building a productive urban farm was possible, but that in order to make a livelihood, he needed to scale up. At the same time, Lucy had completed a Permaculture Design Certificate and was looking to start a market garden on the Ecovillage farm. They met up, and the rest is history!

Nat and Lucy work hard to make Village Greens a model for small-scale, intensive market gardening, in the hope that similar projects can be replicated in other pockets of unused land in and around the city. They have hosted WWOOFers,

school groups, work experience students and volunteers and were instrumental in establishing a local grower’s collective of over 100 members which aims to support people to become better growers, whether home- or farm-scale. Village Greens focuses on intensive organic production methods to maximise yields from a small area, and grows a diverse range of seasonal vegetables. In 2015-16, they harvested over 8 tonnes of produce. They sell their vegetables to the Ecovillage residents, local and CBD restaurants, a local Farmers’ Market, aswell as providing home delivery to suburbs within Adelaide.

NORTHERN TERRITORY – EduGrow & The Remote Indigenous Gardens Network (RIGN)

Photo courtesy of EduGrow

Photo courtesy of EduGrow

EduGrow is a low budget, online (distance!) recognition awards program open to schools in some of Australia’s most remote communities that is all about growing ‘good food, good learning and good times’ at school in the spirit of ‘food, family and community’. It was created to support students and teachers to take action to help build healthy food and lifestyle skills in ways that may also encourage school attendance and student achievement so that more young people can look forward to a long healthy life.

Why EduGrow? Imagine this. Your community has one store which does a great job supplying fresh foods, but food is often really expensive and hard to access, especially when the wet season cuts deliveries or when many family and others visit.

Half your community are under sixteen. Many don’t attend school.  When they do, they often find it hard to concentrate. English is your second or third language. You like to learn by doing things and in the oral traditions of your family. Mum and Dad may be wary of school or have other things to worry about. Many friends and relatives are unwell or have died too young because of a diet related chronic disease.

Imagine you are teacher.  You want to offer learning activities that engage students and include parents. Your community has great food traditions and cultural knowledge to share alongside learning how to grow, prepare and eat new foods for fun, wellbeing and resilience.

A celebratory, strengths based program. Built around a friendly Recognition Awards program everyone who participates is recognised as a winner and contributor to a learning community, sharing tips, achievements and inspiration.

EduGrow was created by the Remote Indigenous Gardens Network in partnership with the Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation, a highly successful Indigenous owned corporation who actively promote healthy food choices through the stores they own or operate across the top end.  First held in 2012, EduGrow was open to all Arnhem Land schools in 2013 and 2014 and in 2015 to remote and regional schools across Australia with many diverse and wonderful entries received.

Award categories are fun, flexible and tailored for schools of different sizes and experience – from tiny homeland schools to community schools such as Shepherdson College at Galiwin’ku. Each year the Awards build upon what was popular the year before. In 2015 the most popular categories were:

  1. Healthy Soil for Healthy Food and People
  2. Planning and Making Special Places.
  3. Special Visitors and Teamwork
  4. Healthy Food Enterprise Projects, and.
  5. Local Leaders and Legends.

Grow Your Own

Grow Your Own

Published October 28, 2016 in The Conversation

By Andrea Gaynor, reprinted with the author’s permission

During the devastating floods that hit Queensland in 2011, Brisbane and regional centres came perilously close to running out of fresh food. With the central Rocklea produce market underwater, panic-buying soon set in and supermarket shelves emptied fast.

Such events expose the vulnerability of our urban food systems. Climate change and resource depletion present more slow-burning challenges, but the fact remains that urban food policy is at risk of complacency.

Gardening is certainly good for you, but does it have a role to play in increasing urban food security and resilience? Perhaps history can tell us the answer.

While Australian research has focused on recent urban agriculture initiatives, a real-world experiment in gardening for food security took place in Australia more than 70 years ago, during the Second World War.

Winning the war with home-grown food

Britain, facing serious food shortages, began using the slogan “Dig for Victory” in 1939. In Australia, low-key efforts at encouraging home food production began two years later. A 1941 survey of Melbourne households revealed that 48% of them already produced food of some kind. In spacious middle-ring suburbs the proportion was as high as 88%, whereas in the dense inner cities it was less than 15%. Food production was most common among middle-class and skilled working-class households, and less so among the poor and marginalised.

By 1943, significant food shortfalls were expected in Australia. The government responded with a range of measures, including a large-scale “Grow Your Own” campaign. Movies, radio broadcasts, public demonstrations, newspaper ads and brochures all urged home gardeners to grow their own vegetables. It was hoped this would reduce the strain on the commercial food supply, as well as offering substitutes for rationed food items, providing insurance against commercial food supply failures, and easing the demand on items such as fuel and rubber. Municipal councils and schools also ran vegetable production programmes.

While there are no reliable statistics on the campaign’s effectiveness, anecdotal evidence suggests that home food production increased – but not without hitting obstacles along the way. Wartime disruptions led to shortages of pesticides, seeds, rubber and fertilisers. Livestock and fowl can play an important role in nutrient cycling in sustainable food production, but cows and goats had been excluded from many urban areas in the decades before the war. As a result, competition for local manure was fierce; some gardeners would wait with bucket and shovel for horses on grocery rounds to pass by.

Artificial fertilisers were also expensive and hard to come by. Even the use of blood and bone as an organic fertiliser was restricted, as it was diverted for commercial poultry and pig feed. Alternatives included composting of waste, although this required time and skill, and its nutritional value for plants was limited.

Labour, too, was in short supply. Many able-bodied people had joined the armed forces and others were working long hours in war jobs. This left relatively few urban residents with the time and energy to devote to a vegetable garden. The Women’s Land Army was involved in some urban cultivation, and the YWCA established a “Garden Army” of women who established and tended community gardens on private or public land.

Lessons from the past

 What lessons can we learn from this history about the capacity for suburban food production to boost urban food supply in a time of prolonged scarcity?

The most important is that home and community food gardens can contribute meaningfully to resilient urban food systems, but as our urban form is changing we need to explicitly plan for this contribution.

For example, vegetable gardens need space – public or private – that is reasonably open and not crowded by trees. This is one reason why the spacious middle-ring suburbs of Melbourne were more productive than the inner city in 1941.

Sustainable urban food production also requires skill, knowledge and time. Much food gardening today relies heavily on purchased seedlings, manures and pesticides. Resilient food gardens need to have a range of strategies for sourcing essential inputs locally, for example through seed saving networks, composting, local livestock and fowl, and on-site rainwater collection and storage. They also need people with the time and skills to manage these systems.

This history also provides inspiration in the form of stories of self-provisioning by everyday people, such as the 56-year-old woman running a habadashery and confectionery store who in 1941 produced all the vegetables and eggs she and her sister required at their Essendon home.

The low-density form of much of Australia’s urban landscape provides considerable potential for sustainable and resilient food production. But our cities still need to invest in developing the skills and systems to sustain this kind of farming.

This is especially critical for low-income areas where resource scarcity will bite hardest. It is also a task that looks ever more challenging as farms are pushed further from the city, while standard homes on shrinking lot sizes and poorly designed infill development eat up urban garden space.

We may not yet be at the stage of needing a nationwide “Grow Your Own” campaign on the scale seen during wartime. But if we want to increase our cities’ resilience and sustainability, we would be foolish to ignore its lessons.

 

Urban Agriculture Forum 2016

Summary and Review

The University of Melbourne, Burnley Campus, November 20-21 2016

Henry Crawford, Sustain: The Australian Food Network

The 2016 Urban Agriculture Forum was held on November 20-21 at the University of Melbourne’s Burnely Campus. The event was  organized by Sustain: The Australian Food Network in partnership the University of Melbourne Burnley Campus, 3000 Acres, Cultivating Community, Moreland Food Gardens Network, The City of Yarra, and Port Phillip Ecocentre. The Forum brought together over 200 people for both days of the event, with representatives from a range of areas across state and local government, the education, university and TAFE sectors, designers and urban planning, urban farmers, community and backyard gardeners, chefs and restaurateurs, food social enterprise and retail businesses, health professionals, emergency food relief providers, and food rescue and waste management authorities.

Showcasing over 35 speakers across two days, the 2016 UAF included international keynote speakers from the Netherlands in Debra Solomon (Urbaniahoeve) and Henk de Zeeuw (RUAF), international guest Pablo Ermini from Argentina, and an impressive list of representatives from around Australian that included;

Bruce Pascoe (Author of Dark Emu) / Chris Williams (University of Melbourne) / Nick Rose (Sustain) / Michael Zagoridis (Pocket City Farms) / Morag Gamble (SEED) / Anthea Fawcett (Remote Indigenous Gardens Network) / Emily Connors (CERES Organic Market Garden) / Mark Sanders (Moreland Food Gardens Network) / Hermann Paulenz (Permablitz) / Laura Phillips (Neometro) / Sally Burgess (Victrack) / Dan Green (Melbourne Water) / Brian Coffey (RMIT) / Kathi Orsanic-Clark (City of Yarra) / Lee Tozzi (City of Darebin) /Greg Jacobs (City of Melbourne) / Peta Christensen (Cultivating Community) / Kat Lavers (Hobsons Bay City Council) / Sophie Lamond (Right to Food Coalition) / Susie Scott (FareShare Melbourne) / Amanda Miller (Impact Generation Partners) / Professor Rachel Carey (University of Melbourne) / Annemaree Docking (City of Whittlesea) / Seb Lindner (Propagate) / Rebecca Scott (STREAT) / Oliver Shorthouse (Ramarro Farm)/ Miriam Issa (RAW)/ Costa Georgiadis (Gardening Australia) / Claire Hetzel (Horticultural Therapist)/ Georgia Savage (Farmer Incubator) / Ellie Blackwood (3000 Acres)/ Robert Van De Graaff (CSIRO)

Following on from the 2016 Urban Agriculture Forum was a national speaking tour which saw keynotes Debra Solomon and Henk de Zeeuw travel to Bendigo, Adelaide and Sydney in the days following the Forum. An Open Garden Day was also held on the 19th of November where over twenty gardens around Melbourne signed up to showcase and celebrate the richness and diversity of urban food growing spaces around the city. Garden gates were opened to the public to take part in scheduled tours, talks, workshops and food sharing events. Among the list of gardens involved were; 3000 Acres Saxon Street Garden, CERES Organic Farm & Community Garden, Fareshare Garden, Moreland Community Garden (West Brunswick), and the Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre Multicultural Food Garden.

The Forum itself was an outstanding success, with the event succeeding in achieving its main objectives of;

  • Bringing together practitioners and policy-makers from across the urban and peri- urban food landscape to build a shared understanding of what urban agriculture is, and the benefits and opportunities it can offer in the Australian context, specifically in regards to:
  1. Creating more resilient urban environments, strengthening food security and meeting the challenges of adapting to climate change
  2. Enhanced access to fresh fruit and vegetables, especially for marginalised and low-income communities
  3. Employment and training opportunities for disadvantaged and marginalised groups
  4. Reduced environmental impacts through less transport, packaging and storage
  5. Recognising and celebrating the achievements of the urban agriculture movement over the past decade (and in some cases before) in Australia, both at the community and local government levels
  • Sharing lessons of good and best practice urban agriculture models, as well as failures and successes, from both within Australia and internationally
  • Identifying and discussing the legislative, regulatory and resourcing barriers to the further expansion of urban agriculture in Melbourne and beyond
  • Developing a common platform and set of proposals to the State government to address the identified barriers to urban agriculture in Australia (link to other post)

Keynote Presentations

Debra Solomon / Urbaniahoeve: The City as our Farm / Urban Agriculture foodshed, watershed and the climate crisis: new roles for humans within forest garden and urban soil ecosystems

In her keynote presentation, Debra Solomon discussed cases from her work in Urbaniahoeve Social Design Lab for Urban Agriculture since 2009, including activities ranging from forest garden implementation to in situ topsoil production and remediation, to art production. Debra show’s how different approaches to soil and biodiversity analysis frame different perceptions of the human role towards the ecosystem. She argue’s that aside from yielding different insights into soil fertility, the freedom of the artistic practice that allows for visualisation techniques to be interpreted as data (e.g. soil chromatography), complementary to quantification techniques, also yield perceptions of the relationship between humans with regard to the soil organism and ultimately to the ecosystem at large, and that guide human behaviour and governance.

 

Henk De Zeeuw /  Senior advisor RUAF Foundation / The role of urban agriculture in the development of healthy, sustainable and resilient cities

n his keynote presentation, Henk de Zeeuw begins by providing the RUAF definition of urban agriculture, which includes intra- and peri-urban agriculture, production for self-consumption or social functions as well as commercial agriculture, on land as well as on rooftops and indoors, production as well as processing and distribution. Henk illustrates these dimensions of urban agriculture by providing a number of examples from both the global North and global South. Through recognising urban agriculture as a dynamic and innovative sector of the urban system, Henk suggests it can play various functions in the development of a sustainable, inclusive and resilient city by addressing some critical urban challenges faced by cities today. Three urban challenges are explored; increasing urban food insecurity and malnutrition, growing urban ecological and resilience problems, lack of employment / enterprise development.

The presentation concludes with some of the lessons learnt by the RUAF Foundation through working with over 25 cities to develop specific food and agriculture policy / strategies or programme(s). These lessons provide the basis for the learning points Henk then explores regarding the factors that strongly influence success in food and agriculture policy development and action planning.

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