Urban revolution

TUESDAY 20 May 2008. A woman has telephoned ABC morning talkback radio in Perth. She’s responding to a lot of chat about the the price a groceries. The solution, she says, is simple: ‘Grow your own.’

Slow Food Perth says – what better place to do this than your front verge? Lovely as all that mown lawn and concrete edging might be, it’s next to useless: just a spare carpark and the place for the weekly rubbish bins. Why not dig it up and grow food? Create a kitchen garden shared by you and your family and passers-by. Does it matter if someone nicks a tomato or spirits a carrot away to their own kitchen? Think of it as a community revolution. And while you’re putting the fork into the buffalo and wondering about which broccoli to plant, why not think of extending your community revolution to a community garden?

West Leederville community edible garden
Pauline Tresise writes about an inspirational sub-urban revolution in Perth’s West Leederville:

MOST of us feel we do not have any control over the direction in which our world is heading – but to meet a group of residents in West Leederville who have successfully established a community garden is, to say the least, most encouraging and inspiring.

Just over a year ago a group of residents in West Leederville approached the Town of Cambridge with the idea of establishing a community garden. The initial movers were Peg Davies, Sue Taylor and Leonie Birch but soon joined by an enthusiastic group including Lou and Greg Toy, responding to advertisements in the local delicatessen, letter box drops and Community Newspaper publicity.

The initial garden plan was developed along permaculture lines with a frog pond and a bog soon to be included. Composting bins, worm farms are in place and the use of recycled grey water is an ambitious dream. A small volunteer grant has been secured which helped with the purchase of wheel barrows and other garden equipment. The business community has been very supportive with donations of a large water tank and shed. There will be provision in the planning for subsidising some plots for groups who are not able to afford the yearly plot lease fee of $160. The actual annual cost is $120.00, and the remaining $40.00 goes directly to the neighbouring sporting club to strengthen community ties.

The site is less than a year old and consists of a communal community garden and 20 plots of 4 metres x 2 metres. Local residents and plot holders are encouraged not only to work on their own leased plots but to work together on the communal plot. Ten of these plots are well established and thriving with a vibrant mixture of vegetables. These initial plots are the ones that the Town of Cambridge agreed upon but because of the interest and success of the plots the council agreed that the remaining ten plots that were planned could be started ahead of time and these were then worked on in a busy working bee by community volunteers over the Mothers Day weekend.

Community gardens have a long history and have been used all over the world often as a “Commons” or as allotments. They have contributed to the food needs of people during times of depression, poverty and war. Many examples can be seen all over the world today and in many countries are part of their culture.

A recent film “Power of Community, how Cuba survived peak oil” shows the inspiring example of Cuba who turned their food crises into a successful urban gardening community. With the collapse of Russia in 1991, Cuba’s main trading source and supplier of oil almost disappeared overnight. Russia had generous trading arrangements with Cuba providing oil, pesticides and fertilizers in exchange for agricultural products. Now Cuba had to manage on half of this, their system collapsed, power was reduced to minimum and there were major blackouts and a serious food crisis. Emergency food rationing was put into place and to counteract this urban community gardens were set up, which have now created a sustainable food source for the Cubans. Half of the food for the people living in the capitol city of Havana is produced within the city itself and Cuba produces 80-100% of its food in urban gardens throughout the country. They have not only changed most of their method of agriculture but have become more reliant on vegetables than their former corn, wheat and meat diet

In Australia the development of community gardens was started in Victoria in the mid 1970s Collingwood Children’s Garden and Brunswick City Farm are two well established examples and ones that are often cited and visited. In the mid 1990s community gardens appeared in many housing estates in the Eastern States. In the mid 1990s the “Australian City Farms and Community Garden Network” web resource was developed in response to an increased demand for gardens.
The West Australian link

Examples in Perth of community gardens are City Farm in East Perth, Fern in Fremantle, Gumnuts in the City of Swan, Piney Lakes in the south of Perth and Earthwise Community in Subiaco

Community edible gardens provide places for residents and families to gather and share knowledge, culture and traditions. They provide places for the community to meet and grow, to share their food and their long forgotten food stories, to redevelop a connection to the land which has been largely lost, to understand the rhythms of the seasons and to rediscover the importance of fresh local food. It is a place where people can learn about sustainable urban agriculture, biodiversity and waste management. It has the potential for providing workshops and mentoring other groups about urban gardening and sustainable communities.

With the increase in food costs, the rise in petrol prices and the peak oil problem urban agriculture will become more and more important, necessary and practical. Lawns will become rare places used only for sport and recreations. It is said that more grass is planted than crops and that we waste precious water resources on maintaining the lawns. We pollute the atmosphere with the hydrocarbons from mowers. Pesticides, herbicides and chemicals contaminate our ground water. Permaculture and organic urban gardens will replace lawns not just as an important food source but as an aid for growth in sustainable urban communities.

West Leederville Resident Association and the Town of Cambridge are to be congratulated for their foresight and belief in encouraging such a worthwhile community project.

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