Solutions, not conflict needed, says PA

MEDIA RELEASE —  27 February 2014

Permaculture Australia (PA), a representative body for practitioners of the permaculture design system, condemns AUSVEG's short-sighted criticism of Australia's community gardeners and farmers' markets.

"It is unfortunate that an industry body sees fit to support the federal government's reneging on the Community Food Grants scheme that would have benefited community food initiatives like community gardens, farmers' markets, food rescue organisations and school gardens", said PA spokesperson, John Champagne.

"Those grants would have enabled new community-building initiatives, improved community garden management and furthered the work of Australia's growing number of farmers' markets. The markets are important to the livelihoods of participating farmers and to the development of regional food-based economies.

“We would prefer a more constructive dialog with AUSVEG based on areas we agree on and where we can cooperate rather than compete”.

As non-commercial community organisations producing food for the use of members, as therapeutic gardens for people suffering health challenges, as school gardens and as community-building venues for disadvantaged people, community gardens fulfil a valuable social role across the spectrum of socio-economic groups.

Community gardens are also venues for permaculture design practitioners where they educate gardeners about vegetable and herb production. In some cases permaculture designers, some working professionally as landscape architects and horticulturists, assist communities design and construct their gardens.

"There are fewer opportunities for biosecurity threats in community gardens due to the range of expertise found among members, some of whom are skilled in horticulture”, said Mr Champagne, who is also president of South East Producers.

Community gardeners often make use of the biological approach to garden management. This includes time-proven methods such as diverse plantings rather than monocultures, integrated pest management, crop rotation and the use of botanical insecticides that do not contaminate soils and waterways.

“Community gardens are family-friendly places and are a safety net for unemployed or low income households, pensioners and even asylum seekers who can get access to a plot to produce their own healthy food... food that may otherwise not be so affordable.

“AUSVEG's biosecurity criticism of community gardens could also be applied to home food gardeners, however both community and home gardening are traditional land uses in Australia and support a large nursery and horticultural equipment industry.

“Both types of gardens contribute to the nutritional health of our people”, said Mr Champagne.

Permaculture attracts a growing number of participants to courses and workshops, some of whom go on to participate in local permaculture associations. The design system serves as an approach to community self-help and innovation, offers nationally-recognised courses in vocational training and has gained a level of support in local government.

For comment:

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