Urban Agriculture Forum 2016

Working Group Outcomes

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

Henry Crawford, Sustain: The Australian Food Network

In the afternoon of Day One of the Urban Agriculture Forum the attendees split into groups and engaged in a focused discussion around four areas of urban agriculture. With the ability to select an area with the most relevance to their interests and expertise, the attendees selected between the topics of; urban agriculture and advocacy, backyard growing and food forests, commercial urban farming in Australia, and the role of local government.

The aim of the working groups was to develop a list of actions and recommendations that would form the basis of the Forum’s follow-on agenda. The working groups utilised the Socratic circles method of group discussion, a democratic approach to sharing ideas, teasing out issues, engaging in spirited debate and building relationships. Each group was first posed a series of questions by a designated group expert relating to important future considerations within the area being explored.  With the aid of the group expert and support team, new questions were raised  as the groups worked through the questions initially posed by the expert.  Each group was split up into two concentric circles where only one circle was given the opportunity to speak at any given time, a format that encourages equal contributions from participants. The actions /outcomes that were proposed are as follows;

Urban Agriculture and Advocacy

Group Expert: Nick Rose (Sustain)

Supported by: Mark Sanders (Moreland Food Gardens Network)

Initial Question(s): What should the role of city-wide groups be in created a shared advocacy platform for fairer food systems?


  • Create a network of networks that can function to create a larger voice

  • Establish a voice with government that can compete with big business and other peak bodies that lobby government directly

  • Contact councillors now

  • Local council required to revise their strategic plans post election as well as the Health and Wellbeing Plan

  • Working towards a kitchen table style discussion model that could be used in the run up to the 2018 election

  • Approach Get Up to see whether they can take the issue up

  • Some groups agreed to nominate rep to a group and to continue contact after today to work together

Backyard Growing and Food Forests

Group Expert: Kat Lavers

Supported by: Hermann Paulenz

Initial Question(s): How can we expand backyard food production in Melbourne? What policies / resources / networks do we have now – and what others do we need?


  • Greater utilization of urban food waste and grey-water to create a closed loop urban food system

  • Create a dialogue with government to address trends in backyards being paved over and generally reducing in size, and the green space shaving that is occurring around multi-story developments

  • Lobby for reintroducing incentives for installing water tanks and other resource saving technologies, revising restrictions around verge planting, and regulations around keeping animals

  • Economic incentives to support backyard growers such as rate discounts for food producers or other sustainable practices like reducing chemical and pesticide use, and recycling food waste and grey water on site

  • Food safety and regulations need to be reconsidered for small producers and home growers, for example regulations for small selling eggs produced at home

  • Greater education around home food production and the knowledge that it may in many cases be some of the best quality produce available

  • Show case studies that demonstrate the value of home food production in economic terms, and also case studies demonstrating that it doesn’t take a significant amount of time to produce a decent quantity of food from home plots

  • Promote an understanding that even if not all home growing can be justified in strict economic terms, it is still underwritten by a strong holistic case in terms of resource saving and community building

  • Addressing the issue of soil contamination, recognizing the need to make it easier and cheaper to have soil tested

  • Creating networks to allow successful home growers to share their successes and connect with other growers or aspiring growers

  • Greater utilization of small technologies for backyard growing

Commercial Urban Farming in Australia

Group Expert: Chris Williams (University of Melbourne)

Supported by: Michael Zagoridis (Pocket City Farm), Annemaree Docking (City of Whittlesea) & Seb Lindner (Propagate)

Initial Questions: How can the high cost of land in Australia’s major cities be overcome as a barrier to establish productive and commercially viable urban farms? What viable production methodologies and marketing strategies are available to make urban farming viable and widely practised?


  • Regenerative production systems need to be emphasized – climate change, food security, health, inclusion (social equity + commercial potential)

  • Funding models need to be given greater attention

  • Greater attention must be given to unlocking land

  • Broad community education and bringing the community along for the journey

  • Streamlining regulations and planning frameworks to unlock urban land protect from sprawl

  • Policy setting and incentives at all levels of government for commercialization of UA

  • The need for systems thinking around urban agriculture

Role of Local Government

 Group Expert: Lee Tozzi (City of Darebin)

Supported by: Kathi Orsanic-Clark (City of Yarra)

Focus Questions: What role can and should local government play in supporting the expansion of urban agriculture & urban food systems in Australia? What barriers currently exist (State / Federal – planning etc.) and how can they be addressed?


  • Embed urban food systems objectives & actions into council plan & health and wellbeing plan

  • Giving community more determination over the use of public land for urban agriculture

  • Advocate to state government via cross council food alliance

  • Ensuring both metro and regional governments are involved

  • Raise the importance and profile of urban agriculture in local government through a state government mandated process

  • Better marketing and selling of urban agriculture success stories in the media

  • Address the barriers of health risk and soil contamination in urban food growing

  • Integrate the urban agriculture role / responsibilities into sustainability areas of council

  • Working with state government to use zoning to protect vulnerable food growing areas and promote urban agriculture