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Choice reports positively on community gardening

Story and photo by Russ Grayson

AUSTRALIAN CONSUMERS’ ASSOCIATION MAGAZINE, Choice, reported on community gardens in its September 2009 edition.

Produced by staff writer, Tanya Fong, the report started with the story of Central Coast home gardener, Matt De Britt, who claims to have saved his family $1800 a year by growing vegetables and producing eggs on his “mini-farm”.

The article reveals some interesting points:

  • 40 percent of Australian consumers but organic food at least occasionally “…for health, taste and out of environmental concern…”
  • organic purchases are also attributable to the global economic downturn “spawning a grassroots approach towards food security”
  • higher prices deter buyers from purchasing greater quantities of organic food, a fact Choice attributes to The Australian Organic Market report 2008
  • “survival gardening” is part of a worldwide shift in consumer demand for more nutritious and tastier food
  • Choice quotes Rebecca Huntley, director of consumer market research business, Ipsos Mackay, saying that there is  “micro-trend in survival gardening”  that is to some extent a reaction to “the quality and price of fresh fruit and vegetables people are getting at supermarkets”
  • Ms Huntley is quoted as saying that there exists consumer “anger” towards supermarkets “and their control” that has shown up in surveys over the past 18 months. “People are increasing their focus on the practices of supermarkets”
  • not everyone has the space for a home garden, but there are other options such as community gardens.

Community gardens

Ms Fong spoke with the author of this article a number of times in preparing her story.
She writes that:

  • community gardens commonly have both allotments and shared gardening areas
  • membership fees are greater for an allotment and range from $15 to $100 a year
  • potential members of Angel Street Permaculture Garden (Newtown, Sydney) are taken on a tour of the garden “and its culture” before joining
  • Veg Out Community Garden (St Kilda, Melbourne) has an informal approach to joining where potential members “simply have to register, turn up and help out for three working bee days”
  • she quotes the writer commenting on the rapid growth in the number of community gardens
  • Ms Fong says that “you can connect to a wide range of resources, from seed distributors to farmers markets, through a community garden”.

Contacts provided in the Choice article include the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network (this website), Australian Community Foods, Diggers Club (seed company specialising in non-hybrid varieties), ABC TV’s Gardening Australia, The Vegetable Patch (online gardening guide) and Yates Garden Guide.

The Choice report was quite positive in tone and its presence in such a mainstream journal demonstrates how well established the practice of community gardening has become.

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