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Sunday, October 17, 2010

KOTA hopes for a community garden (amongst other things!)

Kids on the Avenue Children's Centre in Coburg had a battle on their hands a while back and faced closure.

Since emerging from their financial crisis the board continues to work to secure their future and one project they are looking into is the building of a community garden.

Their proposal is currently doing the rounds at MP level (Maxine Morand/Bronwyn Pike), Moreland Council have been writing letters to progress it and to try and secure a 20 year lease over the vacant land surrounding the premises.

They plan part use of the land for a community garden and part use for a new purpose built kindergarten, bigger maternal health and allied health service which would free up space in the current building so they could offer more day care. 

A proportion of the food grown there would go be used to feed the kids at the centre to whom the garden would be accessible (as well as to community gardeners).

So many benefits could flow from this including:
  • Community - building a stronger bond between the local community and the centre through gardening and food,
  • Sustainability - reducing the centre's environmental footprint,
  • Teaching kids about gardening and food -  helping kids to experience the joy of growing food that they can eat themselves and informing them about the origins of food,
  • Food security - providing kids with access to healthy, safe food.
Good luck to them with this whole enterprise!

Mulberry Garden Open Day 20th November

Hello Everyone,

The people at Mulberry Gardens will be holding an open day on November 20th from 10:30-2:30, with live music, planting workshop, wood fired pizza and cafĂ©. 

Despite not receiving further funding from Moreland council the garden is continuing to grow (people and plants.) I attended their pizza over building workshops over the last few weeks and can't wait to see it in action.

Come and show your support, grab a bite to eat and enjoy the sunshine (hopefully)!

Promoting sustainability, health and inclusion in the city - Canberra 2010

Elspeth Brock works in community horticulture around Moreland with Merri Community Health Services. She's working with three community gardens (that I know of anyway) - Merri Corner in Brunswick, Mulberry in Glenroy and Ilma Lever in Coburg). She recently recently attended a community garden conference in Canberra and provided the following sum up that you may find interesting. (Thanks Elspeth)

Community Garden Conference- Promoting sustainability, health and inclusion in the city, Canberra 2010.
Articles and presentations will be available as an on line resource soon

The conference was an interesting mix of garden case studies, academic research and the global perspective. There was much about influencing policy and the importance of networking.

Myles Bremmer from Garden Organic UK was a key note speaker who highlighted the need not just for smiling faced kids in gardens but evidence based research, and government policy for community gardens (CG) to really influence food sovereignty. There was much discussion of how council can help/ hinder CG, but an overall view was that policy if needed to assist with development of a lease system that cuts through the red tape of council planning departments and make available funding for early stages of development. It is difficult working with state and federal government as CG cuts across various departments-is is health, planning, environment?

CG were presented as essential to the sustainability of our cities, for the 1st time on earth 50% of people live in an urban environment. There is also a lack of data about how CG actual contribute to sustainability- looking at ecological functioning, biological diversity, productivity, waste management etc.

Christine Milne the greens senator for Tasmania said that presently the federal policy makers see GMO and large scale corporate farming as the only solutions to food security; they see CG as good and quaint but not as a real answer to food issues. She suggested we need to make more of a link between community gardens as a way for people to appreciate fresh, local seasonal produce, the difficulty and skill of growing and how this could directly link in to support for local farmers. She noted the importance of CG facilitating farmers markets, community supported agriculture and other food systems outside of the large supermarkets which do not give farmers a sustainable future. This could provide an important bridge between ‘greens’ and farmers, city and country.

Other speakers discussed how we should not give an overly romanticized view of CG but discuss challenges and solutions as this shows how CG contribute to dynamic and adaptive communities. The challenges of engaging truly disadvantaged groups were also highlighted by building local peoples skills. These skills often related to management- conflict resolution, group facilitation, and engagement strategies. The large range of benefits of CG mentioned included social inclusion of people with disability, migrants and ethnic communities, community resilience, healthy eating, food security, safety of local communities, connections with nature and mental health, and an awareness of larger food production/ food security issues. More research in measuring the benefits is always useful when trying to influence policy.

The benefits of support workers for CG was highlighted through the example of WA was given where a position for a statewide community garden worker that ran for 2 years, this helped prevent volunteer burn out, strengthen existing gardens, provide advice and support when seeking funding, help new gardens access information, organize larger scale state networking events and develop a state wide web site.

Myles Bremmer summed up the conference with a ‘where to from here’. He recommended food sovereignty as a better term than food security. That in Australia we need to:
  1. Be clear about what a CG is, who the constituents are- individual plots / or specific social group being targeted
  2. Get clear on the facts and figures- no one presently know how many CG there even are in Australia, how many volunteers etc. Need a national network, numbers to influence policy.
  3. Develop a narrative of what CG want - insurance, policy?
  4. Have a ‘crazy celebrity gardener’ (everyone looks towards Costa) to inspire the community and the suit behind to work with policy makers
  5. Be pro-active to show case gardens - local council, media
  6. Assert food citizen rights (right influence how, where, what our food is/ comes from)

Interesting Links:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Coburg Community Garden Update - Part 2: Council Site Review

A while back when we made initial contact with Council we were encouraged to propose our site so that the Asset department could establish its status. At that stage, we had a list of locations that might be suitable. Far too vague. We agreed to submit a short-list of potential sites rather than narrow ourselves to one.

Each of the locations on our map was rated between 1 and 5 (1 being poor, 5 being ideal) for the following criteria:

  • Size,
  • Toilet Access,
  • Aspect/Sunlight,
  • Water Access / Harvesting,
  • Access to site.
Here are the sites we proposed to council for review (in no particular order).
Last week Council indicated that they see two sites as possibly viable - 29 Reynard St (possibly earmarked for sale) and the unused Trugo Club near Newlands Community Centre (not on our list as we didn't know about it then but it was pointed out to me by some people involved with the community centre).

Council say they should finalise their review and provide an update next week, more when we hear something.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Coburg Community Garden Update - Part 1: Moreland Council Policy Activity

Well, progress on a community garden in Coburg has been slow over Winter but we have a few small, exciting things to report.

This is the first of three posts updating on our progress

1. Council Policy Activity
In July, Moreland Council revealed that they are developing a "policy" on community gardens. Here's what we know now:

As a part of their Open Space Strategy review, the unit responsible for open space planning and development is putting together some assessment criteria to be considered by Council when they receive requests for the use of space under Council management for community gardens. They say that hopefully "a draft revised Open Space Strategy will be out for public consultation in November."

They are working with other key areas (Property Services Unit, Sustainable Development Unit and Social Policy Unit) to resolve how they should best support and resource these initiatives in the future. They say "allowing community gardens in parks has the potential to become a controversial issue so the assessment criteria for the use of public space and parks in particular is fairly critical, as these requests are growing and Council does not have a uniform position."

Promisingly, they add that "at this point, there is no specific designated Council funding to support these initiatives but there are potential funding opportunities through the community grants program and there is a genuine willingness and desire by Council to support these initiatives where possible."

They say the growing number of requests for community garden developments have been directed to a range of Council areas. They hope to formulate a more comprehensive Council approach and an agreed position on the development of these initiatives. The assessment process relating to land use and Council parks that they are working on will form part of the total approach but is also probably the most urgent matter requiring a resolution.

In my view, although this helps clarify their position, lots of questions remain:
  • What criteria are they considering? Presumably some relate to the site and others to the group applying?
  • What is the consultation process and who is being consulted? 
  • How are they arriving at their draft policy?
  • What can we do as a group to give ourselves the best chance?
  • Does this mean proposals are being held over until this strategy document is completed?
  • What is the time-scale for release of the final document?
I'm also intrigued by their mention of the growing number of requests.

I know of at least one other group that has approached Council for support but would like to know how many other requests there have been and from whom?

It would be good to co-ordinate these requests so we work in an organised way with Council. If several groups are unknowingly asking for access to the same space for a garden, then it would be great to link up. We'd surely have a stronger case then and we wouldn't want different groups competing for the same ground. It would also save Council time if the published their assessments to avoid repeated requests for space that is not suitable for whatever reason.

Next step: Contact Council for an update in the next few weeks and to ask the questions I've mentioned above.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sunday Age 8/8/10: Bearing fruit: edible landscapes

Vicurban have incorporated some great ideas around urban food production in the community at their Meridian development in Dandenong. This article below in Sunday's Age explains what they have planned.



Our public spaces need not only be ornamental, according to Andrew Partos from state property developer VicUrban. "Streets can be productive as well as aesthetic, and fruit trees are often very beautiful to grow," he says.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Coburg Community Garden Update - July 2010

Collingwood Children's Farm allotment gardens
We were under no illusions when we started that this will be a long, slow journey and unfortunately, as much as we may have hoped for something dramatic to happen early, we've taken small steps forward in our first few months. We're just plugging away, determined and undeterred.

After the Leader article in May, we enjoyed a flurry of enquiries and expressions of support (well, about 15) which was reassuring and they continue to come in a few months on. We've been contacted by people who want advice, others who want a a plot, some who think we're doing something worthwhile and some people who want to help.

Our project team has now grown from three to seven (which is fantastic). Along the way, we've added (to a couple of keen gardeners and a permaculture designer) some lobbying/campaigning experience, professional horticulture background, some public housing community garden experience as well as more keen gardeners.
  • We've met twice since May (meeting again next week) and we're gradually revealing each person's skills and experience,
  • We've established contact with Moreland Council and found that they are preparing a policy on community gardens (although what that really means we are attempting to clarify),
  • We set up a website for the project team to track tasks, communicate and share information - to help us get better organised,
  • We've been gathering supplementary resource material to support each of the various key "planks" of our case for community gardens. This will be useful if we need to prepare a formal proposal at some stage (this, I suspect, is almost inevitable),
  • The number of locations on our map has been growing,
  • We've visited a couple of potential locations.
We expect this will take time (possibly several years) to achieve.  If we want it to last, we need to do it right. In the meantime, we'll continue to post updates and items that we feel support our project or that may be of interest to people who share our goals. 

What can you do?
Want to get involved? Get in touch with us.
Send us anything you think might support our case.

Thanks for your continued interest and support.

Mark Sanders
Coburg Community Gardening

Farmers of the urban footpath.....

Ever eyed off the nature strip as a potential garden and considered making it pay its way?
Fed up with mowing that green bit out the front that doesn't even belong to you?

This piece from Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network tackles every angle in a balanced way and gives you the best chance of keeping your efforts in tact. Well worth a read.

Check out the Moreland council policy before you start.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Labor in Moreland - statement for community gardens

From Labor in Moreland 2008 – 2012, Building Community in Moreland Page 15

("Labor's vision for the City of Moreland..." )

Building a sustainable community
Labor in Moreland has led the way in putting in place programs to promote a more sustainable community and will continue to do so.
On council we have developed a Moreland Climate Action Plan, which will be implemented.

A Labor Council will
- reduce Council greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2010 and community emissions by 20 percent by 2010
- in partnership, implement the Coburg Solar City project
- reduce council fleet emissions by 10 percent per annum
- retrofit Moreland's street lights with energy efficient globes
- continue to support popular programs such as CERES, Moreland Energy Foundation, Community Power, Sustainability Street and community education programs
- support new programs designed to encourage a whole of community approach to sustainability
- support food security projects and investigate the role community gardens could play in providing a more sustainable local food base. A food security taskforce will be initiated and supported.

Coburg Garden Space (AKA Kildonan garden)

The Coburg Garden Space is located beside the Kildonan Uniting Church at 512 Sydney Road.

The run an afterschool program for "children from local primary schools to learn about plants, food and the environment and the garden's role in health and nutrition" and say that "attendance by regular volunteers from business and industry has found the environment great for team building and regularly return to continue their involvement and support."

Future plans for development of the Coburg Garden Space include:
  • City Sustainable Garden, demonstrating ways suburban gardeners can have a sustainable, long surviving garden in these times of drought. The garden will showcase environmentally friendly plants and techniques, such as water tanks and drought resistant plants.
  • Diverse Cultures Herb Garden, showcasing the various herbs used in culturally diverse cuisines. The various demographic populations of the Moreland area will feature strongly as the basis for this herb garden.
  • Tea Break Pavillion, a restful spot to sit and have a cup of tea, and enjoy the surroundings. This facility will also be available for use as a function or meeting room space for various groups in the community.
  • Future Outlook Orchard, highlighting orchard techniques and fruit bearing trees of the various cultures and demographics of the Moreland region.
  • Education and Learning Garden, which will expand upon the afterschool care program, and provide the opportunity for local primary and secondary school students to learn about plants, food and the environment and the garden's role in health and nutrition.
  • CALD Community Kitchen, aimed at newly arriving and developing community groups, offering them a space to prepare, cook and share their food and cultures in large community gatherings.
  • Plant Nursery Plot, where plants will be propagated and made available for retail sales, providing vocational and educational training opportunities for participants from various Work for the Dole schemes.

City of Yarra community gardens activity/position

City of Yarra established a Community Gardens Advisory Committee last year to deliver recommendations for council consideration in August 2010.

They plan to establish 5 gardens in Yarra by 2012 although they decided against the site in Hardy Gallagher reserve in Princes Hill or the George St Fitzroy sites that were proposed.

They also have a useful FAQ about community gardens.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

UK Gov supporting community gardening

In January 2010, the UK Government Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published their Food 2030 strategy. It sets out their "vision of what (they) want the food system to look like in 2030, and how (they) can get there."

Here's their vision of how things should look by 2030:
"Consumers are informed, can choose, and afford, healthy, sustainable food.  This demand is met by profitable, competitive, highly skilled and resilient farming, fishing and food businesses, supported by first class research and development.
Food is produced, processed and distributed to feed a growing global population in ways which:
  • use global natural resources sustainably,
  • enable the continuing provision of the benefits and services that a healthy natural environment provides,
  • promote high standards of animal health and welfare,
  • protect food safety,
  • make a significant contribution to rural communities, and
  • allow us to show global leadership on food sustainability."
Buried down on page 8 of the summary document is a promising paragraph for community gardening in GB:

We want more people to know about how and where their food is grown, and to grow some of it themselves.

We will expand the Growing Schools Programme to enable another 65,000 pupils, parents and staff to gain hands-on experience of growing food, and will help make more land for growing available to communities, for instance by developing ‘meanwhile leases‘ (which let people use temporarily vacant land).
What does this have to do with us here in Coburg?
We need to find out what, if anything, our local, state and federal governments are doing to support community garden initiatives.

Do any of these levels of government have documented food policies? Do any of them have explicit aims of working to make land available or providing support for new or existing community garden programmes?

Perhaps the idea of a 'meanwhile' lease might enable the establishment of community gardens on land that is suitable and available without forcing the owners to make choose between a long-term commitment or no commitment.

This might enable a garden to get off the ground and demonstrate it's own viability as well as to make use of some open space that may have some other long-term planned use.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pitch for public vegie patch (Moreland Leader, 03 May 2010, Page 7)

Well, we've gone public now, let's see what happens.....

If you're visiting us for the first time after reading the article in the Moreland Leader, welcome!

A couple of things before you click/read on:
  1. Don't let the photo put you off - we're actually normal people!
  2. The site size mentioned here is for one plot, not for the whole community garden, we expect the garden size would need to be at least a normal house block size - 400-500 square metres.

Pitch for public vegie patch
| Tessa Hoffman
Moreland Leader
03 May 2010

ANEWgroup hopes to seed Coburg with community gardens and is seeking your help. Coburg Community Garden Group has already earmarked 10 potential sites for the suburb’s first public-access community garden. Co-founder Mark Sanders said despite having more...

Community gardeners sowing the seeds of a global friendship

Moreland Leader
03 May 2010

THE first seed is yet to be planted, but that hasn’t stopped Merri Corner Community Garden going global. The garden – set to take life on a block of council-owned land in East Brunswick – has signed a ‘‘sister garden’’ resolution with the more... 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Darebin Council Community Gardening Support - A city of farmers

Seems Darebin Council has the community gardening bug.

These articles ("A city of farmers" and "Garden Contest boosts health push") from the Preston Leader 14th April 2010 detail plans to boost community gardening activities in the Darebin area.

A city of farmers
Council | Nic Price
Preston Leader
14 Apr 2010

DAREBIN Council is considering a push to put more fruit and vegetables on dinner tables and have more produce grown in backyards. Councillors want less emphasis on meat and among proposals is an annual garden competition. They are considering more...

Also of interest is the accompanying article:

Garden contest boosts health push
Preston Leader
14 Apr 2010

A GRANT for existing community gardens to educate the public, including schools ($15,000 a year); COUNCIL education programs, including teaching low-income and ethnic groups to use seasonal produce ($10,000); and, AN ANNUAL produce competition, more...

Vegie gardens for all
Fresh food | Nic Price
Preston Leader
21 Apr 2010

THEY’RE busy harvesting the last of the summer crop at the Sprout community garden in Thornbury. From the plots come tomatoes, pumpkins, basil, spinach, lettuces, peppers and chillies, and eggplants. And into the newly emptied beds are sown the winter... read more...

Perhaps Moreland can team up with Darebin and create a community gardening belt across the northern suburbs?

Does anyone have experience of these gardens? What's good about them? What could be done better?

Darebin has 38% of back yards growing produce. What % of Moreland yards are farming?