Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

When I consider the community garden template I'm not sure about its utility in all local situations.

It sure makes sense for folk who live in inner city suburbs with not much garden space on their properties  to grow stuff in; or for those who are renting... 

Of course community gardening is a hub for a lot of different relationships -- but do we really need to set aside a special plot -- a 'common' --  to do that? A seed savers network  may also serve the same function.

On top of all these issues a community garden requires access to shared space, a collective and  ongoing commitment, a water source for irrigation, insurance and some degree of hope that no local thugs are gonna destroy or steal your crops (as happened this last month to the local primary school's veg garden).

So I'm looking for another model...and I'm wondering about a gardening collective/cooperative where folk visit each other's gardens, help out as needed, swap seeds and plants but primarily come together to grow produce that can be distributed (and sold) locally at market stalls.

It's  a market model..a community market model for locally grown produce.

People grow their own stuff and the collective  sells any surplus to family needs  to the locals.So long as the network can be may work.

Is anyone aware of any suburban based schemes that approximate something like this? 

I know community gardens do do that -- sell/distribute their harvest -- but I have in  mind  the Organopónicos of Havana.(See video here).

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I'm sure you're right, Rob. Ozzie Zehner takes up the same paradox in his challenging, Green Illusions.

However, New York is New York  and the Australian reality is very different esp in its post war urban development.What does that mean? What are the options? We can't all live in New Farm...and even inner city townscapes here are much less dense than Melbourne and Sydney.

The 'Urban Renewal' project in the Valley/New Farm that was engineered in the late 80s had nothing to do with 'community' and a lot to do with real estate development, even though its stated aim was to concentrate the population.

Indeed, through the nineties Brisbane Council was trying to deal with the fact that Brisbane's population was falling while local shires and council areas were growing exponentially. 

Bye Bye rate dollar.

The fallout has been various schemes such as 'Hub' developments -- like Nundah and Chermside -- which concentrate populations, even take them skywards. 8 stories is now a suburban standard.Today, of course, Brissie's 'renewal'  is as we see and the population is buoyant once again. 

But in that mix you have to ask where's the green edge at? Soorley's environmental pitch in the nineties was focused on the buy back scheme funded by a community levy. 

But today, what's our preference? Given that we are stuck with the suburbs we've got? McMansions take up 85-90% of much smaller suburban blocks. Slide and dice options now allow two houses on lots that used to hold one.

Open public green space is at a premium.

Of course this is where the community garden movement registers an impact...that and local bush care groups.

This site is afterall, 'Brisbane Local Food'...but in deference to that I'm not sure if 'local' --as in neighborhood -- is intrinsically inefficient. One of the problems with urbanisation is that dormitory suburbs have carpeted what were farming land. Redlands is a prime example of that --  the region used to be Brisbane's  main vegetable growing area.Now it's wall to wall housing.

And New Farm -- was called 'farm' because it was the colony's food bowl.

So underneath us is often good soil now given over in the main, to housing, lawns and such.

If we do decide to grow food instead of  the standard suburban floral norm, all food gardens will produce a surplus to resident needs. As the Organopónicos  show -- when this is done consciously projects like this can be very productive. The city of Havana produces enough food for each resident to receive a daily serving of 280 grams of fruits and vegetables.

Broad acre, industrial farming -- monoculture -- may seem more 'efficient' --but it is demanding of significant chemical (non organic) inputs, reliant on long distant road transit for distribution, contained by narrow crop selection, held hostage to agribusiness preferences, environmentally destructive,..and is usually unfair to the small producer.

I doubt that local agriculture is gonna supply all local food needs. I think it's a niche option especially in regard to easily perishable items like greens,some fruits, herbs, and the like. Specialty items like heirloom tomatoes. 'Older' vegetables that are given more time in the soil like aged carrots...But primarily we are talking about seasonal produce which is harvested when ripe. A fact that is obscured by supermarket fruit and veg.

Local produce also keeps better as any one who shops at 'farmers markets' will tell you. It redefines what we know as 'fresh'.

We live a strange existence in Australia with our grossly underutilised quarter acre suburban blocks serviced  by motor mowers.In play is a major reaction against that culture. We have been able to consider overseas models -- like the English cottager movement and allotments -- while taking on board the impact of Permaculture ideas (and Australian Permaculturalists  like Robyn Francis were key contributors to the Organopónicos in their early days.).

So the whole 'community garden' momentum is a novel experience. In the past there was a keen sponsorship for suburban gardens during the Second World War (Dig for Victory) just as thereafter many migrants from the Mediterranean turned their suburban blocks into food bowls. 

Before that it was there were the  Chinese who established market gardens on suburban peripheries and I can name several spots close into Brisbane CBD that were Chinese market gardens -- like 'Su's Corner' (I knew the family) in Banyo/Boondall.

Is it efficient? It can be. David Holmgren argues that suburban vegetable and fruit gardeners use much less water (per plant) than industrial farming enterprises. If inputs are skewed towards the hardware store  it is surely expensive. But doing it small scale and organic by sourcing local inputs -- we're talking about a very different process.

Where I am I'm surrounded by horse farms and cow paddocks so the fertilizer thing is easy.

But I guess the primary thing is that this local food business is about remaking our communities by turning their attention greenward. 


FYI: on facebook -- search : 'Sandgate PCYC Community Garden'

Just on the options thing: Sandgate PCYC CG was circulating this report: Urban farm movement grows across Darwin which is worth a read and especially  for this comment:

"I stopped listening to punk rock every day," he said.

"I get out here instead.

"Punk's not dead it's in the garden bed."

Dan Sheridan also refers to 'Spin Gardening' which is a new concept for me.It's 'small plot intensive' that scales down broad acre agriculture. Spin Gardening is similar to Land Share (as above in this thread)..and there is a thoughtful exchange about it here.

Its seems to be in line with the process that Michael Stillman is pursuing with his OzYam project. I guess it's another element in the local mix.

Thanks every one for the input.It has given me a few threads to focus on. So I engineered a draft perspective like this: Locally Grown -- not that the momentum is HUGE! 

But the logic gets driven by the place -- ye olde real estate adage: location, location, location....

I guess there are many roads to Rome's (urban) backyard....

As a matter of interest, Thomas Fox's book -- Urban Farming: Sustainable City Living in Your Backyard, in Your Comm...-- has a great introductory section on the phenomenon of community gardening that explores all the options. The rest is a standard gardening manual.He writes well, too. 

Great that you are giving this a go.

You are hoping to catch the attention of gardeners in Beachmere and immediate surrounds then Dave? There aren't too many on BLF that would fit the bill. Interested in how you will capture the attention of your local area by June 14th for a meet up?

That was past tense.'The meetup'.  Reconnoitre-ing. Main game is the monthly stalls. The project in action rather than maybe. So we'll see...

I did a veg stall at the local markets today. All I did was harvest what I could from my garden yesterday, bundle it up into marketable portions to sell stuff at $2 a bunch. Resting the stems in water kept them all very much alive.

Save for four exotic greens, I sold out by 11 am.

Not bad. Great excuse to network and mix it with the 'hood. Very enjoyable experience as I love outdoor marketing. It's always very social...and market stall holders generate a strong esprit de corps.

It's the produce that's gonna save the local markets...and when you are offering locally grown stuff you meet other gardeners around town. You talk to folk you'd not talk to even though you see them out and about.

well done, the food revolution is well under way/

Well done, I made the effort to find out when the Sandgate 'My farm' had their stall and visited it on Friday morning.

The veg all looked sensational and I purchased the bits and pieces I don't grow. It has enthused and challenged me to grow mine to the same standard.
It is so good to chat with like minded people.

Then the monthly fruitful suburbs (apex park Brighton) get together this morning which is more like the friendly chat and swap table at a BLF garden visit.


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