Member update – Goshen Watts

Goshen is a Professional Member of PA and is fully immersed in the Permaculture way of living. He lives in the suburbs in Geelong, a city in the state of Victoria, southwest of Melbourne. He gives to his local community by being the editor of the Geelong Organic Gardeners newsletter, and secretary of the local Transition Group (Transition South Barwon). Organic gardening is often a route into Permaculture… especially when Permaculturalists invite their local group to come and see their way of gardening! In the photo below, Goshen on the far right is showing the group his backyard micro-market garden:

Goshen’s property is featured in RetroSuburbia (David Holmgren’s book released in 2018) as an example of a food producing polyculture of mixed species on a small urban backyard using Permaculture Design and Principles. Read the case study online. Below, Goshen talking about the importance of nutrient cycling and fertility:
To learn more about Goshen’s Permaculture life, see his website. I met Goshen and his family in November 2018 – article by Dylan Graves

Design notes: Lillipilly, a multiuse tree for shade and food

Design notes…

THE LITTLE RED FRUIT on the ground were the giveaway. Reddish and around a centimetre in diameter, they suggested something was happening above. Looking up, there it was. The tree was coming into fruit, the magenta of the fruit contrasting vividly with the dark green foliage of drip-tip leaves.

Come autumn and winter, the small red fruit on the ground are a sure sign of lillipilly above.

Autumn and winter are lillipilly time. That’s when the fruit of these Australian trees of the Syzygium genus, Myrtaceae family, come to ripeness.
Lillypilly is a common tree in the suburbs of Australia’s east coast towns and cities. In its natural occurrence the species prefers the moister environment of the gully or the edge of the rainforest. Lillipilly is also a favourite of landscapers, especially the small-leaf lillipilly, Syzygium leuhmannai, a narrower tree of moderate height attractive to landscapers because of its bronze-coloured new growth and small, pinkish fruits.
Syzygium paniculatum is an evergreen to around seven metres in height and a similar spread. In municipal planting it is suited to parks and public places. It is also suited to the landscaping of commercial and industrial land.
Planted in public places such as on footpaths the tree offers summer shade that goes towards reducing the urban heat island effect whereby cities are hotter than their surrounding territory, encouraging energy consumption for air conditioning.

Uses in permaculture sites and community gardens

The species is suited only to the larger community gardens and permaculture properties. In smaller gardens might take space better planted to commonly-eaten fruits.
Perhaps the most useful location in the community garden or on a permaculture site would be as part of a mixed planting on the windward side. There, with other species, it would serve as a windbreak to shelter vegetable and fruit crops from strong hot or cold winds. It may also offer refuge to birds, adding to the wildlife conservation and biodiversity role already performed by these gardens.

Magenta lillipilly, Syzygium paniculatumn

As with all tree plantings on smaller permaculture properties and in community gardens, consider the mature height and width of the tree before planting and avoid planting other long-lived trees where the lillipilly will eventually shade them out. Instead, plant short-lived small trees, the fast fruits, in the area that will eventually be shaded by the lillipilly. Depending on climate these might include pawpaw, banana, tamarillo and babaco. They will go through several generations before the lillipilly shades the soil where they are growing.

For community gardens and permaculture properties that cultivate an area of native plants, the magenta lillipilly would be a fine specimen that knowledgable gardener-cooks can harvest for its fruit, turning them into tasty sauces and other foods. They are also edible raw. The shade cast by the growing tree would be a suitable place to make a small pond to attract insects and amphibians.
Magenta and other lillipilly planted as street or public place trees offer urban foragers the opportunity to glean free food. First, though, check whether the tree is maintained by a community group who plan to harvest the fruit themselves, so that you don’t deprive them of their hard work. The same goes for taking lillipilly from community gardens unless you are a member.
Magenta lillipilly — an edible presence in east coast towns and cities performing many roles including human forage, wildlife refuge, boosting biodiversity and urban cooling.
Gardener-chefs: Do you have any lillipilly recipes to share? Just add them in the comments below…

A young Syzygium paniculatum, the magenta lillipilly, planted as a street tree. Consider the mature height and spread of any tree in deciding where to plant it: will it eventually shade-out other plants or take growing space better planted to commonly-used crops?

Magenta lillipilly with the flower characteristic of the Myrtaceae genus.

From the archive: new edible ideas for an old city

Story by Russ Grayson, 2014

Digging into the permaculture archive, we uncover this story written for PIP, the Australian permaculture magazine, in early 2014…

Hobart… Australia’s second oldest city, and its southernmost outpost of civilisation, is starting to grow… grow food, that is.
Giving urban agriculture a boost are Permaculture Australia members, Hannah Moloney and Anton Vikstrom, who are working on making their hilly home garden high above the city a working example of a suburban farmlet.
“That’s an ongoing project”, Hannah explained. “We’ve established a garden and installed some chooks… we’ve painted some of the house exterior and made improvements inside, but there’s lots more to do, so it’s going to keep us busy for awhile yet.
“We plan to show how to really crank an urban block on a tricky site”.
Busy, yes, then there’s the Permablitz the couple are engaged in around Tasmania.
“Well… we’ve just wrapped up an introduction to permaculture course here in Hobart”, answered Hannah when I asked her about their plans.
“On a larger scale we’ve partnered with Sustainable Living Tasmania (SLT) to run The Permablitz Project… five blitzes around Tasmania to engage people in the wonders of home food production. Another exciting project with SLT is running a multi-week program teaching newly arrived refugees to learn how to grow food in cold climates”.
Now that the introduction to permaculture course is ended, Hannah is turning her attention to the Food 4 Thought gathering, of which she is on the organising team.
“It’s the national gathering of the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network”, she said. “It’s here in Hobart this March and it’s this great opportunity to meet people engaged in urban agriculture and food education.
“After the conference we have Bonnie and Harry Wykman from Perth who are hoping to introduce people to the incredibly productive Biointensive method of growing food. It’s good for small spaces because you can produce a lot of food on a little bit of land”.
Edible forest gardening and composting workshops are also in planning, as is a winter Permaculture Design Course in which David Holmgren will teach. In a way, that will close the circle because it’s not far from where Hannah and Anton live in South Hobart that, in the closing years of the 1970s, David collaborated with Bill Mollison, just up the hill on Strickland Avenue, to devise something new… something called the permaculture design system.
It’s a busy life there high on Hobart’s hills for this couple — two people working with other Tasmanian creatives to make something new and good in our southernmost state.


New community food system funding being assessed

Story by Russ Grayson, June 2015

Citizen-initiated food systems could get a funding boost if recommendations coming from a NSW state government proposal get a favourable reception by the environment minister and departmental decision makers.
The proposal comes from the work of consultants, Roz Hopkins Muller Enterprise, who carried out research into community food systems for the NSW Environment Trust, a quasi-independent operation of the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH). The Trust administers an annual grant scheme open to community and educational organisations as well as local government, and has a focus on environmental improvement.

Community food systems the focus

The Trust launched the project to assess new funding opportunities for community food systems, and since its launch I have been a member of the advisory panel for the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA). Other advisory team members include Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network president, Jane Mowbray, the Royal Botanic Gardens Community Greening program assisting community food producers in social housing, local government, the UNSW Faculty of the Built Environment and others.
Any funding scheme eventually coming from the project will exclude food waste projects as that is already the focus of the state government’s Love Food Hate Waste program. It will also exclude assistance to food enterprises based on a business model, such as small, for-profit food businesses as well as not-for-profit social enterprises like community supported agriculture and food co-ops, as they are outside the terms of reference of community-based enterprises.
I tried to have social enterprise included as they are a distribution model with  the social goal of access to good food, any operating excess going back into the enterprise rather than being distributed as profit, however my attempt was unsuccessful on account of their operating as businesses.
I accepted the invitation to participate on the panel as I believe this is where AFSA can do good work and influence outcomes. It might be behind-the-scenes type of work but that, rather than campaigning, is often where change can best be influenced because it allows us to focus less on what we would oppose and more on what we want to see happen.
The four community food systems likely to benefit include community gardening, food swaps, edible streetscaping and home gardening, which is growing food in home gardens for distribution via swapping or selling along the lines of the NSW Blue Mountain community enterprise, Crop & Swap.
The survey carried out by the consultants found that the main motivator for participation in community food gardens to be environmental improvement. Social interaction and access to good food also figured. Improving environments figured when I did research for a local government policy directions document some years ago, however the lead reason for participation I found to be access to good food followed by social interaction and learning.
Interestingly, the research found that participation in community gardening has increased the sharing of knowledge to a high degree among gardeners, significantly enlarged their social circles, dramatically increased the practice of composting food and green wastes (to produce garden fertiliser) and made many aware of the ‘food miles’ issue of transporting food over long distances.
Naming something ‘community’ does not automatically mean access, it was found. Access to community initiatives, like community food systems, is influenced by proximity, transportation and so on. It’s much like the realisation in the fair food movement with its criticism of Australia’s supermarket duopoly, that in some areas there is no alternative to the supermarket as a source of food, and what is needed are ideas on how to buy less-processed, more nutritious foods in the supermarkets.


In identifying the existence of a social movement around community-produced food the researchers found it to be fragmented, with participants restricted to their ‘silos’ of community gardening and other areas. There is little cross-communication between the silos. I think this fragmentation is real, having seen it myself.
There are many reasons spanning a lack of time to share and communicate outside of the particular community food circle, a focus only on community gardening especially where gardeners are new and learning, a monofocus on home gardening without connection to other home gardeners or gardening organisations, a focus on localism that ignores the larger community food picture and of the social and political contexts the practice exists within.
What has come from the project — the research was national in scope — is the realisation that there is a significant community food movement but it lacks cohesive leadership.
One of the few moves in that direction comes from the national educational, advocacy and networking organisation, the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network. The Network has engaged in advocacy to protect the practice of community agriculture and has represented it in the media and in government. It is sectoral, though, focusing only on community growing, school gardens and closely related activity.
The national, Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance offers a broad representation to its diverse membership that includes farmers, food distributors, community gardeners and others, however it is not a leadership focusing specifically on the community food sector. There would likely be potential to assume such leadership were the Alliance to set up an initiative specifically to do that, much as it set up a farmers’ group — Fair Food Farmers United.
Any representative organisation that evolves to represent the nascent community food sector would necessarily include the commercial, social enterprise organisations that seek to fulfil social goals through a not-for-profit business model. Community supported agriculture schemes and food co-operatives are the dominant types of food social enterprise in Australia.
These are important parts of the broader community food system that focus on the distribution side of the urban food supply chain. They are important to those without time, inclination or opportunity to garden their food. Importantly, community supported agriculture enterprises like Brisbane Food Connect, Ooooby and CERES Fair Food in Melbourne link urban eaters directly to farmers in the region, developing through practical experience a regional food economy and giving practical expression to just what is local food.

It’s about volunteers

The community food sector, that around community gardening, food swaps, networked home gardeners distributing their produce beyond the back yard, and even the school food gardens that have become popular since first being developed and promoted in the 1990s by the permaculture design movement, is the work of volunteers.
These initiatives extend the great Australian tradition of voluntarism into food provisioning. While home gardening is an Australian tradition that was scaled up through the Gardens for Victory campaign during the Second World War, it is only since the first community garden was established in Melbourne in the late 1970s that food production has taken a sustained community focus.
The Environment Trust research disclosed what those involved in community organisations, especially those managing them, have known for years — voluntarism is a practice limited by volunteer time and skills. Researchers found that the number of good ideas offered by volunteers exceeds the capacity of voluntary organisations to implement them. Organisations relying on volunteers risk losing them when volunteers find their good ideas cannot be followed through because voluntary organisations don’t have the time, funds or capability to do so.

A member of the Woodbridge, Tasmania, community supported agriculture scheme with a box of fresh organic produce.

This raises the question of capacity, familiar to community organisations. It’s a well-worn word in the world of community organisations and NGOs and refers to the availability of time, skills, funds and inclination to get the job done. It’s accurate to say that it is the lack of capacity that limits the potential of voluntary organisations and even some NGOs with paid staff. The researchers have looked at ideas to extend the capacity of organisations, including that of educating members in running organisations.
There would be much to be done to improve to implement some of the ideas coming from the proposals. Local government approaches to edible streetscaping and planting edibles on public land is much in need of reform, including policy that covers regions larger than just local government areas. The idea of incentivising councils to develop more permissive and coherent policy came up.
Another topic raised was the undemocratic practice of councils in allowing vexatious individuals to block community initiatives even when more people support them than oppose. This, too, would require reform and democratising if community food initiatives are to be enabled. Although it wasn’t mentioned specifically, there is the associated potential for precinct committees, where they exist, to block community food initiatives. Critics say that precinct committees often devolve into cliques of NIMBYs — the conservative Not In My back Yard crew who seek to control what is done on public land and who can limit the opportunity for innovative new landuses.
In some ways food is a safe area for government to venture into, however it is also a conflicted area with its own politics. That politics reflects the makeup of the movement and touches upon food security and poverty, the market dominance of the supermarket duopoly, farming systems, urban landuse and local government, the GMO issue and government policy. Discussion among the advisory panel was about how the Environment Trust scheme, if it eventuates, would represent not the campaigning side of food politics but those organisations actively building the community-based food systems as the fair food future they want to see.
That a state government body has taken the initiative to commission research on,  and bring together an advisory panel of community food systems signifies that the practice has moved from the innovative urban fringe into the social mainstream. Now, we wait to see what comes from the government and minister’s office.

Seed Studio funding successful

Story by Russ Grayson, June 2015

1528645_398281796974074_1373199996_nA team of urban agriculturists has crowdsourced start-up funding for a new citizen enterprise in the small city of Launceston in northern Tasmania.
It’s all to do with seeds, those tiny packages of nutrients and genetic instruction code from which our food grows.
According to Bridgette Watts from Urban Farming Tasmania, at the Seed Studio  ” …the seed will be free in exchange for garden memories, ideas, photos, produce, seeds and so on”.
The Studio raised more than the AU$1000 it sought through a recent crowdfunding campaign. The Studio is a type of seed bank and, like any bank, you can make deposits and withdrawals, only in this case that is with seeds, not money.

Seed networks preserve biodiversity

The Seed Studio, like seed exchanges elsewhere, are community-based initiatives that maintain the genetic diversity of our food plants and preserve them through use. People take seeds, grow them, letting much of the crop go into the cookpot but leaving some of the plants to go to seed. These are harvested and dried, then taken back to the seed bank for others to make use of next growing season. Those growers, too, allow some of their plants to go to seed and return the surplus to the bank. And so it goes.
Citizen-led approaches to maintaining the agricultural biodiversity of non-hybridised crops (hybrid species might not reproduce true to type from their seed) is facilitated by the Seed Savers’ Network’s Local Seed Network found in town and city as well as by initiatives like Launceston’s Seed Studio.
Launceston, population around 65,000, hasn’t figured all that prominently when it comes to fair food and citizen enterprise in innovative food systems. Until now, that is, thanks to the Seed Studio.
The Studio will open this August at 3 Charles Street, one of the thoroughfares that makes up the grid that is Launceston’s central core.
[button_link url=”” target=”blank” style=”green” title=”” class=”” id=”” onclick=””]Visit Urban Farming Tasmania’s website for more details[/button_link]