Urban farming is helping city dwellers get back to their roots
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
Agriculture experts in Australia are encouraging residents to produce their own food through urban farms.