Written by Henry Crawford
Sustain: The Australian Food Network
Since the start of 2016 Sustain: The Australian Food Network has been embarking on a mapping project of existing Council plans, policies and strategies that relate to urban agriculture. The scope of the project includes nineteen councils, with the majority of these located within the Melbourne Metropolitan Area. The objective is to identify the current local policy framework for urban agriculture, and to create a resource that clearly maps out these policies and strategies. The intention is that this resource will be useful for both the community and organizations like 3000 Acres, through painting a clearer picture of the regulatory context in which they operate.
As of September 2016 the project is nearing the first stage of completion, with 16 of 19 councils profiled. The next stage is to build on the mapping resource by looking more closely at the two councils that are seen as having the most extensive urban agriculture policy frameworks. This will include a series of surveys and follow up interviews with the aim of generating a best practice model for urban agriculture policy formulation and implementation. The final stage of the project will see it become incorporated into a countrywide online Food Systems Directory, which Sustain is facilitating thanks to the ongoing support of the Myer Foundation.
The Directory is intended to be a dynamic, user-generated networking tool that both makes visible the growing food systems movement around Australia and provides a means for individuals and organisations to locate and connect with each other. Over the next few months, Sustain will be reaching out to individuals and organisations to invite them to create their own profiles, upload key aspects of their work, and share their affiliations. The Directory will be publicly launched in the first part of 2017.
Rather than strictly looking at policies and strategies the mapping project instead identifies all documents that have been developed by Council in relation to urban agriculture. One of the key takeaways from the project to date has simply been the number of detailed and highly practical documents relating to food growing and food sharing that exist. In order to complement Council policy and strategy, these resources are intended to empower the community with the tools necessary to start growing food at home. So here are three great examples of documents that do exactly that, all of which are available on respective Council website:
Moreland City Council – Home Harvest booklet
This is a highly practical and detailed 60 page document that was produced in collaboration with Sustainable Gardening Australia, and provides the necessary tools and information for successfully designing and managing a sustainable food garden. From planning, to building, managing and harvesting, the document provides in-depth explanations on organic systems, soil choice, companion planting, integrated pest management, and many other areas. The document also provides general information on local food and seed swaps, farmers markets, and even provides recipe suggestion so as to ensure you are getting the most out of your home grown produce. With text provided by Sustainable Gardening Australia, similar Home Harvest booklets are available from the City of Manningham, Nillumbik, Banyule, Whittlesea, Hume, Macedon Ranges, Stonnington, & Wyndham Councils.
City of Darebin – Sustainable Gardening
This Sustainable Gardening booklet was also produced in collaboration with Sustainable Gardening Australia. It places food growing within the broader context of promoting sustainable gardening behaviours, both to ensure the health of the natural environment and our own personal health in the process. The detailed 40 page document covers both edible and non-edible plants, and goes into specifics on the food growing cycle with garden design, plant selection, harvesting, composting and worm farming all taken into consideration. With useful tips on which seeds grow best in specific environments and locations, the documents is a highly practical tool for those new to growing food at home. In addition the booklet provides information on local community gardens, food swaps and farmers markets.
The City of Yarra – Lets Grow Together
This urban agriculture resource booklet represents a best practice model for applying for, planning, designing, and maintaining a community growing space. Community growing spaces provide an opportunity for the community to work together, building more resilient and liveable neighbourhoods through growing, producing and sharing fresh and healthy food. They are located on public land and may include a planter box on a footpath or road, a productive tree, or a nature strip garden. The document also provides a list of useful websites and relevant literature relating to urban agriculture and sustainability.