As the weather warms up it is ideal growing season for fruit and vegetables, and people are getting back into the pleasures of gardening. Our little plot at home is going gangbusters; you can measure the amount the tomatoes have grown each day. It is a pleasure to base dinner around what is fresh in the garden and to choose the herbs straight from the pot. Whilst it’s very satisfying to eat vegetables and herbs you’ve grown yourself there’s a much bigger thing going on here, supported by the State government. On Tuesday (03-12-13) Tony Simpson announced grant funding for community gardens; whilst it is a modest amount by any standards (totaling $400,000 over 4 years), it demonstrates that State Government gets the concept, and that is very important. Basically they are offering up to $20,000 to community groups and local governments to establish a new community garden. In his press release the Minister says “Gardens add life, colour and creativity and become a place for community gatherings, sharing stories, knowledge and ideas and increased self-sufficiency.”
Clearly for these grants to work, the impetus needs to come from the community, from-the-ground-up, it would never work top-down. We are lucky in Fremantle, we have a history of community gardens such as North Fremantle’s APACE and Sustaining Settlements, now FERN on Montreal St. More recently projects such as Hilton Harvest have been very successful in growing both community and produce. Part of this success is a real desire to be more sustainable in the way we live, but a crucial component is the benefits of getting together with your neighbours and growing something, caring for it and nurturing it. Perth is a car dependant city, where it is common to see few people walking the streets that are dominated by garage doors. Endless research tells us this type of urban environment isolates people in their homes; homes that are predominantly occupied by only one or two people (ABS). Community gardens are an antidote to that isolation.
Community gardens can even work in the heart of a CBD, a recent project to watch is the Fremantle community rooftop pop-up garden in the MYRE project known as FreOasis. According to their website it’s a collaboration between Freo Permies, Freo Farm and Spacemarket. I called it pop-up because the garden beds are in 1000 litre IBC’s* that can be moved around on a pallet trolley. This way they can be used to enhance the other projects on the Rooftop and to get the best sun/shade combination for the plants.
For our city to thrive into the future we need to be resilient; offering alternative food suppliers to those provided by the box shops and growing a strong sense of community are sure-fire ways of achieving that. As peak oil and global warming bite, mutual support and cooperation in our communities will be ever more important for our future wellbeing.
The Minister has done the easy bit by offering some seed funds, now its up to you to make it happen. Identify a suitable piece of underutilised urban open space and put in a submission, if it’s Council land, it will need to be a joint submission. I’m thinking places like South Fremantle’s Biscuit Factory Park as ideal candidates. You will not regret it; ask anyone who is involved with a current project like Hilton Harvest.
*Intermediate Bulk Containers