Tag Archives: community gardens

A triumph for community gardening

One of the most exciting things in Community Gardening happened last weekend. You might have missed it, because it was without fanfare, and very localised: Maud and Neil put up a planter box on a streetside close to where they live. You don’t feel excited? You should do, because this was the first streetside planter box to be installed under the City of Yarra new guidelines. And the City of Yarra guidelines are very progressive. More than that, Yarra are the first local council to employ an officer to facilitate the application of urban agriculture. For that, we congratulate them. The first permit took four months to issue, as all issues of all the relevant departments, and all the bureaucracy and risk aversion of public service had to be negotiated. Without a facilitator, this would have been impossible. The normal reaction of Council would have been to play it safe, and simply reject the concept of planter boxes, nature strip planting, fruit trees and all other forms of urban agriculture in public space. The normal reaction would be to keep things as they are, but the City of Yarra didn’t do this, and they are leading the way, with the eyes of other councils and organisations upon them.

Maude and Neil with planter box
Maude and Neil with the new planter box (permit no. YCG-01)

The recent events in Princes Hill, where a divided local reaction stopped the proposal for a community garden on parkland, has demonstrates more stongly than ever that Yarra’s Urban Agriculture Facilitator is needed. It’s not suprising that some urban residents don’t want to loose public open space; it’s equally not surprising that some urban residents feel the strong need to grow some of their own food. The compromise is to use marginal space, like Maud and Neil have: their planter box is on a slight raised area that is neither foot path or road, it is just separation space. The planter box doesn’t interfere with lines of sight or access. It appears from the very short time it has been there to recieve overwhelming support from locals.

But this small scale, decentralised model needs more effort to work, and local residents just don’t have the know-how to get through the local government bureaucracy, and local government departments just don’t have the incentive to deal with local residents on these issues and coordinate with other departments. And because we are talking about marginal space, it is always at the margins of responsiblity.

This is why the Urban Agriculture Facilitator role is so essential. If the role is lost, all the good work that has been done up to now will be wasted. Yarra’s leading position will be lost. It is currently a part time role, but it needs to be increased to five days a week. Time is needed in processing applications and granting permits, and all the communication that involves. In addition available land needs to be put on an inventory, a more robust grants system is needed, more resources are needed for residents of our city, and time needs to be spent on promotion and education.

Please leave a comment and tell us what you think of the Urban Agriculture Facilitator Role and Yarra Council supporting urban agriculture like this.

Urban Growth: A community garden info session & a FREE home-composting workshop

Photo: Melissa Wall

Cultivating Community & Yarra Climate Action Now happily present a forum on community gardens in the City of Yarra and a workshop for helping home and community gardeners compost at home.

Sunday March 18th
Gordon St Laneway, access next to 23 Gordon St, Clifton Hill
Melways 44 E2

Special guest: City of Yarra Urban Agriculture Facilitator, Pete Huff
Special Features: Food Swap – Bring your excess homegrown produce to swap on the day

Contact Hannah -at- cultivatingcommunity.org.au for further information and to RSVP.

Urban Agriculture: Feel good about climate change

It’s hard not to feel dispirited sometimes: wanting to do something for the climate but being faced by huge odds. It’s not surprising that political activism isn’t for everyone.

Otherwise unused land reclaimed as a community garden

But there are things that we can do, acts which make us feel good about ourselves, which help us feel part of the community in which we live, and which allow us to feel reconnected to the soil that was so fundamental to humans for millennia. Crucially, they are also actions for the climate.

Many of those actions fall under the category of urban agriculture: growing vegetables in your back yard, tending fruit trees in public open spaces, having potted herbs on the window sill, watering a planter box out on the street, composting kitchen scraps, or reclaiming a bit of unused land for a community garden.

The YCAN Local Urban Agriculture Team intends to work with Yarra Council, other local community groups, local businesses and individuals, to help make a practical difference, literally at a grass roots level. Future blogs will talk about what is happening in Yarra, what is new, and what you can do too.

Democracy at Work

Last night some of YCAN’s Local Action Group went to the Yarra Council meeting at Richmond Town Hall. We were there for two reasons. Firstly, in Public Question Time, we wanted to ask if the Community Gardens Committee (which has Yarra resident members) would be continued next year. We’d heard a rumour that funding for community gardens was one of the things that the councillors who are pushing to build a $35 million indoor sports centre were keen to axe. YCAN is a strong supporter of community gardens where vegetables and fruit trees can be grown. Our second question was if Council could assist residents in approaching owners of vacant private land with a view to using it for community gardens.

The response was a masterful example of saying a lot, telling us nothing we didn’t already know, and not actually answering the questions. We’re use to it. Undaunted, we will keep a close eye on the situation with regard to community gardens in Yarra.

The second reason we were there was to support Council on their submission on the Dept. of Transport’s proposed peak hour bus lanes along Hoddle St and Victoria Pde. Council is critical of the plan which lops off some of the central median, removes parking, but doesn’t actually reduce the number of lanes available to cars.

We also wanted point out that no provision for bikes had been made in the plan. Councillors agreed that this omission should be rectified. An amendment was proposed and passed unanimously.

So job done, no opposition, all over and done with in a matter of minutes…not exactly. We arrived at 7pm as Public Question Time is early on the agenda. We had done our bit by 7.30. The Hoddle St/Victoria Parade Bus Lane was later on the agenda, much later. It was almost 11pm by the time it came up.

In between there were a couple of contentious planning issues, where passionate residents were able to voice their opinions. Councillors listened to their concerns, asked questions, debated the issues. Amendments were proposed, voted down, new ones proposed, etc. It was a long process, but a fascinating one.

We left at 11pm, but the councillors still had half of the agenda to go.

If you’ve never been to a local Council Meeting, you should go. It’s much more entertaining than CSI Alaska or My Cooking’s more Pretentious than Yours. It’s democracy at work, and you can take part in it.

We just wish the chairs were more comfortable.