Says Russ Grayson, media liaison for the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network:
MEDIA INTEREST IN COMMUNITY GARDENING CONTINUES TO GROW
Community gardening certainly has captured the public imagination.
Surely it is an indicator that, in just the last three days, I have spoken
with the media on three occasions - a spot on ABC Local Radio Sydney this
morning, comments to The Telegraph yesterday and to The Age the day before.
Prior to that I talked with a Sydney Morning Herald journalist for their
supplement, in book form, that was distributed with the newspaper the
Real (food) Handbook. It included home gardening, a balcony garden, a
chefs kitchen garden, recipes and cooking, the chook diaries and the
Wooloomoloo Community Garden which is supported by City of Sydney.
The ABC Local Radio interview included comments on the City of Sydney's
plans for more support for community gardens and local food. Interestingly,
not long after doing the piece, I received a phone call from a man on the
Central Coast with some rural land he would like the community to make use
As media liaison for the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network,
I usually forward media enquiries directly to people and gardens where
possible. Those of a more general nature or that are issues-based I try to
answer myself. A increasing number come from councils interested in
community gardens in their local government area.
The number of both media and council enquiries continues to grow. From the
questions asked, I believe this is indicative of:
- a general upsurge of interest in community gardening
- that community gardening is an opportunity for local government to develop
positive relations with citizens
- recognition that community gardens offer social and environmental benefit
as well as access to fresh, nutritious food
- that the gardens are a venue for local action on global issues such as
climate change/global warming and peak oil
- that the organics-rich soils of community gardens sequester carbon
- that the community gardens are venues for active and passive recreation
and, thus, are beneficial to personal and community health
- that community gardens are now recognised by local government and others
as a valid urban landuse.
EXPANSION OF COMMUNITY GARDENS, LOCAL FOOD IN CITY OF SYDNEY
At a meeting last night, the City of Sydney voted to expand their support
for community gardening and local foods.
Support for community gardening in the City is to grow beyond the present
ten gardens to 13, with the possibility of a children's community garden
We can also look forward to seeing spring onions and leafy greens poking out
of the brief cases of city workers, now that council has given the go-ahead
to the expansion of the City of Sydney farmers market in Phillip Park in the
CBD. The market, which started only a few months ago, has proven popular.
Held every Friday, city workers can stock up on fresh, local foods to take
home. The market is organised for the City by Hawkesbury Harvest, a local
food organisation operating in the Sydney region.
The City says that it is planning for a fresh food city. Lord Mayor Clover
Moore MP said the idea is part of the Sustainable Sydney 2030 vision to
develop local village hubs focusing community, business, retail and cultural
assets in clusters connected with the local community. There has also been
talk of a walkable city, presumably in the same way that Melbourne's inner
urban zone around Fitzroy, Carlton and Collingwood is walkable.
"Producing food locally and consuming local produce is an essential part of
sustainability. People are increasingly recognising that locally and
ethically produced food is good for the environment, has a reduced carbon
footprint, and has social and educational benefits. Community gardens are
not just about the production of food. There are environmental benefits and
also important social benefits that bring members of the community together
for a common purpose," Ms Moore said.
According to a City spokesman, plans include:
- expanding the existing 10 community gardens in the City of Sydney to 13,
with new gardens to be designed and developed in Glebe/Forest Lodge,
Ultimo/Pyrmont and a Kid's Community Garden
- employing a dedicated Community Gardens and Volunteer Coordinator to
develop the community gardens program, including web-based resources and a
- investigating expanding the successful Friday Farmers Market in Cook +
Phillip Park to other areas to encourage sustainability in the production
and sale of food by reducing food miles
- developing a new 'fair trade' award category as part of the City of Sydney
Business Awards to recognise those premises which source products from
ethical and fair labour
- allocating grants for new community garden partnerships as part of the
City's annual $4.5M grants and sponsorship program.
The idea for the fair trade category in the City's awards would make City of
Sydney the second council to support fair trade products. Manly Council
already has a periodic Fair Trade Fair in the plaza outside the ferry wharf,
and provides a list of local businesses stocking and serving fair trade
foods and goods.
What will be necessary is for the City to ensure that there exists
sufficient community demand for the proposed gardens and that the resources
are available to support them, especially in the critical initial stages of
their development. It is well intentioned to go out and build gardens,
however this is best done in partnership with the people who would garden
them. While it is possible to gather a community around a newly constructed
garden as Faith Thomas and I did with the Carss Park Community Garden and
local government community garden policy directions development project for
Kogarah Council this year it is less work for council when a community of
interest already exists.
Much of the work that has laid the basis for the City of Sydney's
commendable initiatives I this regard is attributable to City of Sydney
Waste Education Officer, Micheal Neville. Michael has spent years developing
a positive relationship between the City and community gardeners in the
local government area.
The new community gardens and volunteer coordinator, who starts in January,
is a woman knowledgeable about current food issues and who is familiar with
the nutritional, environmental and food security values of Sydney's local
food system. Her background is in local government sustainability education
and she is a member of a food co-op, where she sometimes facilitates
meetings, among other things.
The Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network thanks Michael for his
valuable contribution to the development of a sustainable local food supply
and community enterprise, and we are sure that City of Sydney is equally
appreciative of his efforts. We offer our assistance to the incoming
community garden coordinator and are ready to consult, advise and support
We also offer our thanks for their initiative and any support we can provide
to the City.
COMMUNITY GARDENS HIGHLIGHTED IN LIVING SMART COURSE
Randwick City Council's first Living Smart course concluded last night with
the handing out of certificates to participants by the Deputy Mayor.
The course, which went over six evening meetings at Bowen Library at
Maroubra, and a Saturday each at the council nursery and community centre,
was a pilot to identify learnings for the design of next year's two planned
courses. The course is being evaluated by a professional outside evaluator - Phillip Booth - who has evaluated the sustainability education initiatives of a number of councils and other organisations and brings an academic background and the community development insights of Permaculture design
A member of the Randwick Community Organic Garden, which Council has provided support to, Emma Daniel - who has a horticulture and landscape design background - participated in the Living Smart course and succeeded in interesting participants in the idea of community gardening.
Topics covered in Living Smart include: food-smart gardens (home, community and balcony gardens); biodiversity-smart gardens (native plant gardens); transport; personal health (including nutrition, local foods and food issues); healthy home (safe cleaning, pest management etc); power-smart
(energy and energy issues); waste-smart (waste minimisation and issues); action in the community.
Goal setting was covered weekly as a group activity. Participants set their own goals and discussed progress, providing mutual assistance. A home energy and transport audit are included in the course.
Prior to receiving certificates from the Deputy Mayor last night, and as a focus of the course in encouraging cooperation and community participation, there was a forum during which representatives of community groups discussed their activities with course participants. Orqanisations present included:
Early Childhood Environmental Education Network; Sydney Food Fairness
Alliance; Friend of Malabar Headland; Green Church; Thoughtful Foods Food
Co-op; Sydney Organic Buyers (Eastern Suburbs) group (an affordable organics
box system not unlike a food co-op); Permaculture Sydney East;
TransitionSydney (a transitions initiatives team represented by Peter
The formalities were followed with a mini-feast put on by Council with
delicious organic foods from a commercial caterer.
Living Smart is the initiative of Randwick City Council's Sustainability
Education Officer, Fiona Campbell, and is assisted by adult education
specialist, Renata Sheehan, and myself.
As well as delivering training, one of my roles in the course is developing
the Living Smart Action Guide, the manual that participants receive each
week to put into their (recycled plastic) two-ring binder and that forms a
reference and readings book when complete.