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.
Educating a new approach to community garden development
The $500 grant by Permaculture Australia’s Permafund provided timely support to the 5th National Gathering of the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network: Eco-topia 2012 — growing food • transforming place • creating culture.
It is through community gardening — pursued for nutritional health, access to fresh food or as a community development strategy — that community gardeners trained in the permaculture design system express their permaculture. This makes even more pertinent the grant awarded to the 5th National Gathering of the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network by Permafund.
Eco-topia 2012—the 5th ACFCGN National Gathering
The 5th National Gathering, held in Sydney in 2012, continued the tradition of bringing together people active in community gardening, and in developing school kitchen gardens for education, to share their experience and to map a course into the future in which these initiatives play a leading role in making our towns and cities creative, good places to live.
The Gathering attracted members of community gardens, school gardens, health and community workers, local government and sustainable food advocates from Queensland, Northern Territory, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia.
The theme for this year’s conference, which took place at Randwick Sustainability Hub in Sydney, was: growing food • transforming place • creating culture • and celebrating community, one lettuce at a time.
The $500 Permafund grant was used to support the appearance of a keynote workshop leader at the Gathering, David Engwicht of Creative Communities, Brisbane. The ACFCGN’s keynote speech and following workshop session was chosen to provide mentoring support and professional development for community leaders and the whole gathering supported the grant criteria of community development through education.
David introduced participants to a valuable new tool in community garden development — placemaking. This was one of the key outcomes of the Gathering and participants were inspired by the knowledge and skills passed on to them.
We feel that Permafund’s generosity will be repaid socially through the application of knowledge that people absorbed from David. We believe that the introduction of new skills and knowledge, such as the placemaking process, will benefit the design of community gardens and we believe that the grant reflects well on Permafund’s decision to award the grant to the community organisation, Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network.