GROW­ING A FU­TURE ur­ban farm­ing in the heart of the city

A NEIGH­BOUR­HOOD FARM IN THE HEART OF SYD­NEY’S BUSTLING IN­NER WEST HAS BIG EX­PAN­SION PLANS TO GROW VE­G­IES FOR SALE NEAR YOU.

Weight Watchers Magazine (Australia) - - Contents -

Emma Bowen, 34, is the green-thumbed force be­hind Pocket City Farms in Cam­per­down, Syd­ney. To­gether with her part­ner, Michael, she has cre­ated an or­ganic ur­ban farm that helps peo­ple con­nect with food, na­ture and the sea­sons. As well as pro­vid­ing fresh pro­duce for the lo­cal res­i­dents, the farm is a com­mu­nity hub and of­fers weekly work­shops for adults and kids, vol­un­teer ses­sions and even yoga classes.

HOW DID THE IDEA FOR POCKET CITY FARMS COME ABOUT? We re­alised we were dis­con­nected from our food sources and wanted to do some­thing about it. I have a back­ground in busi­ness and sus­tain­abil­ity and my part­ner, Michael, was ea­ger to get out­doors and learn to farm.

We had vis­ited Brook­lyn Grange, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that farms rooftops and builds green spa­ces in the US, which was very in­spir­ing. One of our co-founders, Karen Er­dos, is an ar­chi­tect with an in­ter­est in sus­tain­able de­sign, and we picked up a few other board mem­bers.

Six years ago Michael quit his job and worked on or­ganic farms around Syd­ney, learn­ing as much as he could, while I be­gan to study per­ma­cul­ture. Then three years ago we came across the dis­used bowl­ing club in Cam­per­down and, with the help of fund­ing from Can­ter­bury Hurl­stone Park RSL, we started Pocket City Farms.

HOW DOES IT WORK? We have 1200m2 of mar­ket gar­dens at Cam­per­down Com­mons and ev­ery­thing is pro­duced or­gan­i­cally. We grow ve­g­ies, herbs and salad greens, and we have some young fruit trees. We sell our pro­duce to the com­mu­nity, co-ops and restau­rants, and we have a farm stall here on Satur­day morn­ings.

Michael man­ages the farm in terms of grow­ing the pro­duce, while I fo­cus on com­mu­nity and ed­u­ca­tion. We run work­shops and weekly vol­un­teer ses­sions, where about a dozen lo­cals help us with plant­ing, weed­ing and har­vest­ing – what­ever needs to be done.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR ‘LIT­TLE FARM­ERS’ PRO­GRAM. We’ve al­ways run a lot of work­shops for adults, so we’re ex­cited to have a new of­fer­ing for chil­dren.

Ev­ery sec­ond Sun­day we run a work­shop where we do a farm tour with a weekly topic, which could be on any­thing from ben­e­fi­cial flow­ers to bugs. We get our hands dirty by do­ing some ac­tiv­i­ties with the kids, then we pick some pro­duce and make and eat a sim­ple dish like salad or pesto.

We also run af­ter-school ses­sions ev­ery Wed­nes­day, where kids get to learn new farm­ing and gar­den­ing skills such as mak­ing seed balls or com­post­ing. >

PEO­PLE WHO STUM­BLE ACROSS US ARE VERY SUR­PRISED TO FIND A FARM IN THE MID­DLE OF THE CITY!

WHAT HAS THE FEED­BACK BEEN LIKE? We get a lot of re­ally lovely feed­back. Peo­ple who live in the area are very ex­cited to have the farm nearby. And peo­ple who stum­ble across us are very sur­prised to find a farm in the mid­dle of the city! The farm helps make con­nec­tions peo­ple might not have known they wanted or needed. There are amaz­ing com­mu­nity gar­dens around the city, but what we do takes it to the next level.

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE BIG­GEST HUR­DLES YOU’VE FACED? Find­ing space – that’s why it took so long to get up and run­ning. Find­ing ground-level space that’s af­ford­able, not marked for de­vel­op­ment and doesn’t have con­tam­i­nated soil is not easy. We were also look­ing at rooftop spa­ces but the prob­lem was try­ing to con­vince build­ing man­agers, who were ner­vous about hav­ing a tonne of dirt dropped on their roof.

We’re also work­ing to make ur­ban farm­ing fi­nan­cially vi­able. It comes down to run­ning work­shops and hav­ing di­verse ac­tiv­i­ties and a few dif­fer­ent in­come streams.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIG­GEST ACHIEVE­MENT? Cre­at­ing a sense of com­mu­nity. The big aim of farm­ing in the city is to con­nect peo­ple and get them in­ter­act­ing with food pro­duc­tion. Our vol­un­teer ses­sions have been re­ally pop­u­lar; there are of­ten more peo­ple than we can cater for.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO CON­TRIB­UTE TO YOUR COM­MU­NITY? It’s im­por­tant to find work that makes you feel you’re giv­ing back and con­tribut­ing to the world in a pos­i­tive way. We’re now recog­nis­ing the mis­takes we’ve made in pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions. But the best thing is just to do some­thing pos­i­tive.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FU­TURE? We have a great green­house so we’re look­ing into grow­ing mi­cro greens this year. We’re al­ways look­ing at fu­ture spa­ces, too; the idea is to build more of th­ese farms around Syd­ney – that’s the long game.

We’re ex­tend­ing our ed­u­ca­tion and look­ing at do­ing free talks on top­ics such as food waste and sus­tain­abil­ity. We’re also look­ing at ex­tend­ing our farm stalls to bring in goods from other pro­duc­ers. #

“THE BIG AIM OF FARM­ING IN THE CITY IS TO CON­NECT PEO­PLE AND GET THEM IN­TER­ACT­ING WITH FOOD PRO­DUC­TION… IT’S IM­POR­TANT TO FIND WORK THAT MAKES YOU FEEL YOU’RE CON­TRIBUT­ING TO THE WORLD.

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