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


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!