Ur­ban farm­ing is help­ing city dwellers get back to their roots

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - Estates - - FRONT PAGE -

A grow­ing num­ber of ur­ban farm­ing mod­els in Aus­tralia are putting fresh, lo­cally grown fruits and veg­eta­bles on the ta­ble. Yet these farms want to do more than sell fresh veg­gies and in­crease vi­ta­min in­take of res­i­dents, they want to im­pact the lives of res­i­dents.

In Perth, Green World Revo­lu­tion (GWR) cul­ti­vates mi­cro­greens, edible leaves, edible flow­ers, baby veg­eta­bles and cut herbs on 400 square me­tres of land in the city. A com­bi­na­tion of raised beds con­structed from re­cy­cled and re­pur­posed ma­te­ri­als and out­door hy­dro­pon­ics is used to grow the pro­duce.

The chief ex­ec­u­tive, Toby Whit­ting­ton, says the farm cur­rently sup­plies 35 restau­rants around the city with fresh pro­duce four days a week. De­liv­er­ies are made by bi­cy­cle and the farm also has a num­ber of pri­vate clients that buy di­rectly from the site.

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As a so­cial en­ter­prise, the farm has cre­ated six on­go­ing jobs for for­merly long-term un­em­ployed peo­ple and em­ploys six more on an as-needs ba­sis for con­tract projects at other lo­ca­tions. “We cur­rently have a con­tract project build­ing indoor gar­den in­fra­struc­ture for a restau­rant and cafe,” Whit­ting­ton says.

Fifty per cent of the farm’s in­come is gen­er­ated from pro­duce sales, while the bal­ance comes from ser­vices in­clud­ing pro­vid­ing work-for-the-dole op­por­tu­ni­ties in con­junc­tion with Com­mu­ni­care Inc.

“The work-for-the-do le project is our con­duit to be able to con­nect with un­em­ployed peo­ple,” Whit­ting­ton says. “With our model, we can ad­dress two is­sues, poverty and un­em­ploy­ment, and the en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues with food pro­duc­tion.”

Whit­ting­ton says that, pre­vi­ously, many of the farm’s cus­tomers were re­liant on pro­duce im­ported to Perth from Mel­bourne.

“Edible flow­ers for ex­am­ple might have been in tran­sit for be­tween 48 and 72 hours from New South Wales. Ours might have been picked an hour ago and be on the forks within a few min­utes of ar­riv­ing at the restau­rant,” he says.

“We are pro­vid­ing high-qual­ity fresh, lo­cal pro­duce and we are pro­vid­ing so­cial good. We are now find­ing a lot of chefs and busi­nesses are choos­ing to be with us be­cause of the so­cial good.” Whit­ting­ton says many un­em­ployed peo­ple in the city do not have much ac­cess to fresh food, or knowl­edge of how food is pro­duced. “We share the harvest and we ed­u­cate peo­ple about how to pro­duce their own food,” Whit­ting­ton says. “If we pro­vide peo­ple with food every week, that is some­thing good too.”

GWR is cur­rently build­ing its sec­ond ur­ban farm on dis­used va­cant land be­hind the Art Gallery of West­ern Aus­tralia. Also a work-for-the-dole project, the gar­den will be used as a “foraging farm” for chefs and cooks from Perth restau­rants.

A third farm is planned for later this year on a car park at the Aus­tralian Col­lege of Ap­plied Ed­u­ca­tion’s hospi­tal- ity, cook­ing and busi­ness school.

Mel­bour ne sus­tain­abil­ity not-for-profit cen­tre Ceres op­er­ates both a one-acre cer­ti­fied or­ganic ur­ban farm at its Brunswick site and a two-anda-half acre mar­ket gar­den on coun­cil land. It pro­duces veg­eta­bles, fruit, eggs and seedlings that are sold di­rect to con­sumers and through the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Fair Food on­line de­liv­ery busi­ness.

Melissa Law­son, Ceres’s farm and food group man­ager, says the food de­liv­ery busi­ness is selling tonnes of pro­duce a week, sourced both from their farms and a net­work of lo­cal grow­ers. About 5% is grown within the Mel­bourne city area in sub­ur­ban or­chards and mar­ket gar­dens. They also run ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes and host events such as wed­dings at the farm. Ceres also op­er­ates a for­mal in­cu­ba­tor pro­gramme for start-ups, such as a pro­gram for young mi­grants who were de­vel­op­ing and mar­ket­ing a food prod­uct.

Law­son says peo­ple have be­come dis­con­nected from the sup­ply chain that pro­vides their food. The flip side of the dis­con­nec­tion is a grow­ing con­cern about where food comes from and who grows it, she says.

IN PERTH, GREEN WORLD REVO­LU­TION CUL­TI­VATES LEAVES, VEG­ETA­BLES AND HERBS ON 400 SQ M OF LAND IN THE CITY

IS­TOCK

Agri­cul­ture ex­perts in Aus­tralia are en­cour­ag­ing res­i­dents to pro­duce their own food through ur­ban farms.

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