Friday, April 22, 2011

Food Forest project, grant application and incorporation

It's been a while since you saw an update from us and you'd be forgiven for thinking we'd given up and gone back to our backyards.

Well, although we don't have a garden yet, I can share some exciting news.

Over recent months, our efforts have continued and things are going well.

We are continuing talks with council about sites for community gardens (this remains our primary objective after all), alongside this though we're working closely with them on another project that is not only really worthwhile in its own right but will also allow us to show what we're capable of and help us get to know each other.

Rejuvenation of the Dunstan Reserve Food Forest.
Sometime ago (between ten and twenty years back - accounts differ) beside a sports oval in West Brunswick, a forest of productive trees was established, pergolas were built, grape vines planted, paths laid and swales cut. Amongst the many trees planted were figs, apples, loquats, olives, almonds and pomegranates. There were probably many other supporting plants around these trees.

An iron-work sign was placed proudly atop one imposing structure announced this place as the Food Forest.

Sounds great doesn't it? Unfortunately, over the years, the trees were neglected, the swales removed, the pergolas began to deteriorate and the site gradually lost its way. I've heard various stories about what happened, whatever the real reasons, the sad fact is that a place that once promised so much is now little more than a group of unkempt trees waiting to be cut down, an inconvenience to council. The one encouraging aspect of this story is that locals apparently still enthusiastically harvest produce from the trees.

Our plan: work with locals and groups interested in food security, community health, permaculture and community-based urban agriculture to rejuvenate this site.

The potential of this place is so exciting. At the very least it can be a productive forest of well maintained trees and plants and a pleasant place to visit. At it's best though the food forest can also be an outdoor classroom, a social hub, an exhibition garden, a source of organic, zero-food-miles, healthy food and who knows what else.

We're working closely with council to gain approval for our plans as well as applying for a grant that, if successful, would fund the project (we will need some materials, plants etc.)

Applicants for council community development grants must be incorporated associations so we have recently become Coburg Community Gardening Inc. This formally establishes us as an organisation with a clear purpose and structure. It allows us to seek and manage funds to assist with our projects and to act with a degree of legal protection.

Our grant application will be submitted at the end of next week. Then we'll wait in anticipation with all the other applicants. Keep your fingers crossed!

If you're interested in being involved in the Food Forest project or our group generally, we'd love to hear from you - get in touch.