Tag Archives: urban agriculture

Fab Feb Food Garden Foray – Sunday 24 Feb

Hey Food Gardening Fans!

slip, slop, slap….& byo waterbottle to cycle or stroll our edible neighbourhoods route through Yarra’s diverse & inspiring mix of streetscape food gardens.

Meet the gardeners and hear about the gardens at these times:

10.30am cnr Ramsden St/Clifton Av, Clifton Hill ( Melways 2C,K3)

Yarra’s first ‘official’ resident-initiated council-permitted street planterbox foodgarden

10.45am Laneway Garden behind Gordon St, Clifton Hill (Melways 2C, J3)

Resident-initiated community garden featuring wicking beds, worm towers, rainwater collection from adjacent roof, community composting system

11.15am Tramstop 22, Foodgarden, Queens Pde nature strip, cnr Grant St, N Fitzroy  (Melways 2C, E3)

Resident-initiated 2008 no-dig garden: espaliered ‘fruiting fence’, herbs, veg, edible flowers

11.45am Street planterboxes, cnr Moor St/Young St Fitzroy nr Fitzroy Town Hall (Mel 2C,B9)

Neighbour-initiated in 2008, recently updated as water-efficient ‘wicking beds’

12.10pm Grub foodvan /GrubHole eatery foodgarden 87-89 Moor St Fitzroy  (Melways 2C,A9)

Watered by onsite tanks, with forecourt & interior foodgardens

From little things big things grow. Edible streetscapes reduce urban ‘heat island’ effect, encourage neighbourly exchange & healthy exercise, offer access to fresh-picked tasty goodness & grow local resilience in a changing climate. Please urge ongoing funding for Yarra’s Urban Agriculture Facilitator to further enable, resource and multiply these community initiatives.

More information here


Triumph Under Threat!

The City of Yarra’s world leading position is in danger of being lost. In spite of all the good work done so far, the clear need for the role, and the desire for the role by the community, the Council hasn’t included funding for the Urban Agriculture Facilitator in the 2012/13 budget.

The Council introduced the role on the advice of the Community Garden Advisory Committee, itself set up as result of clear community demand for gardening opportunities in the community space. At the time of writing, submissions could still be made (to Althea.Wright@yarracity.vic.gov.au by Monday 7th May), and hopefully enough went in to convince the Council that the community demand is still there.

If it is after 7th May, you could still leave a comment below, and we’ll pass them on to the councillors.

The current Urban Agriculture Facilitator giving community advice at a compost workshop, jointly organised by YCAN and Cultivating Community. After his half an hour presentation, at least six more people (over a fifth of the number there) were inspired to start the urban agriculture permit application process.

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.

Peak Food and Urban Agriculture

Urban farm in Cuba
Image from thegoldenspiral.org

It’s been an interesting week for urban agriculture enthusiasts. On Thursday 21st July, Carolyn Steel presented the Melbourne State of Design Festival Keynote Address.  She gave a potted history of how cities were shaped around food production, and how the city authorities needed to keep a grip on food supply if they wanted to retain power. With the coming of the railway, cities were free of the traditional constraints of feeding themselves, and expanded rapidly. At the same time their population became largely disconnected from food sources, and control of the food supply was ceded to profit making enterprises. Now our children think that beef comes not from cows, but from Coles, we expect our fruit to be polished and perfect, and our food systems (which are controlled by a frighteningly small number of people) result in half the food produced being thrown away.

She didn’t have solutions, but started the conversations about how cities can now longer consider themselves separate from their hinterlands, and about food security, food production, and food distribution.

That conversation was for me continued on the following Wednesday (27th July) at an Arena Forum on Peak Food.  Yes, you read that correctly: Peak Food. It is the point at which food production must decline, because the current system that produces in such abundance is not sustainable: it relies on lots of fossil fuel (and we’ve probably hit Peak Oil), land that is limited, soil that it reduces in quality, and a predictable water source (and we’ve seen that with climate change, that doesn’t exist any more).

The solutions to the problem of Peak Food aren’t clear, but they revolve around making food systems more resilient, and probably require a reversal of the trends that started with the introduction of the locomotive that Carolyn Steel mentioned. We will need to produce more food locally; local often means urban, because that’s where most of us are. But it’s not just about transport: cities can also be more resilient to climate change, because of things like the amount of organic material that can be collected in a city to compost and grow in, the quantities of run-off water available, and the potential for rapid up-skilling that comes from a dense population.

YCAN’s Local Urban Agriculture working group also had their inaugural strategy meeting on the same evening as the Peak Food forum. We intend to do our bit to address the issues of Peak Food. Watch this space to find out how.

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.