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Flavours of Launceston — the launch

Flavours of Launceston — the launch

Celebrating community garden food and cooking

Story and photos by Russ Grayson, August 2023. First published on PacificEdge on Medium

The publication of the Flavours of Launceston recipe book and the associated website launch Community Gardens Australia into new edible territory and place the Tasmanian city of Launceston as an innovator in community-based urban agriculture.

WOW! This is the best book and website launch I have ever been to. There must be around 85 people sitting around the tables here in the old school building in Ravenswood. And what other book launch would feature Fijian dancers, a Butanese band and a storyteller?

They were my thoughts as I sat there at the long table for the launch of Flavours of Launceston, the recipe book produced by Community Gardens Australia, and the associated website. Things only improved when the food was served. Preparing recipes straight from the book were chefs from the 24 Carrot School Gardens program. Dessert was by the Red Cross organisation, Connected Women. There was more than we could eat.

Fijian dancers opened the launch of the Flavours of Launceston recipe book and website.

Community Gardens Australia president, Naomi Lacey, told the audience of her recent Churchill Fellowship tour in Europe, the UK and the USA where she visited community gardens to learn how they organise themselves. Community Gardens Australia Tasmania coordinator, permaculture educator, Launceston region coordinator with 24 Carrot School Gardens program and instigator of the Flavours of Launceston recipe book, Jo Dean, spoke of producing the book. Launceston City of Gastronomy spokesperson, Andrew Pitt, told of the book’s contribution to the northern Tasmanian city. Past permaculture educator, local government sustainabilty educator and designer of the Flavours book and website, Fiona Campbell, took the audience through the website and invited community gardeners to contribute their recipes. It was a night to remember.

The book

Flavours of Launceston brings together recipes from 11 Launceston community gardens. It includes Fijian earth oven cooking as well as recipes contributed by Hazari community gardeners from Afghanistan and other recipes from the Pacific Islands, Africa, the Middle East, the Americas, Australia, Nepal and Europe.

Introducing the book in the forward are a few words from Hobart permaculture educator and ABC Gardening Australia presenter, Hannah Moloney (Hannah is also Community Gardens Australia ambassador), Gardening Australia host, Costa Georgiardis, and Tasmanian author Rees Campbell. Rees attended the launch with her recent book of Tasmanian wild foods and recipes, Eat More Wild Tasmanian, and a copy of her most recent book, The Seaweed Supplement to Eat More Wild Tasmanian which is about edible seaweed we can find washed up on Tasmanian beaches.

Rees Campbell and her books on Tasmanian wild foods at the Flavours of Launceston launch.

Support came from City of Launceston which recently became a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Colour photographs contributed by the community gardeners and project manager Jo Dean are supplemented by those of local photographer, Thomas Wood, and Russ Grayson, who edited the book. The colour illustrations that appear through Flavours of Launceston, of some of the birds found in and around community gardens, were provided by Launceston artist, June Wise. Book and website design is by Fiona Campbell.

The book is wire bound so it can be folded open when following recipes in the kitchen. It is now freely downloadable from the Flavours of Our Community Gardens website.

A book for the times

Flavours of Launceston is a book for everyone, and even gourmet foodies would find something of interest in it. The recipes are low cost, easy to follow and unusual, the ingredients nutritious. 

The book is of value in the uncertain times we live in and along with the practice of community gardening it offers DIY solutions to a more secure family food supply during our current cost of living crisis.

Participation in community gardens can yield a supply of commonly-eaten vegetable foods and reduce household expenditure on food during cost of living crises. Photo: City Seeds Community Garden, St Leonards, Launceston, Tasmania. ©Russ Grayson 2023.

Community gardening has its Australian origin in the 1980s-1990s. Community Gardens Australia was born at a workshop organised by permaculture educators, Fiona Campbell and Russ Grayson, and then-PhD student, Darren Phillips, at Randwick Community Centre in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. Darren was researching community enterprise.

Community gardening is a convivial practice combining food production, learning, regenerative urban landuse and the cooperation that comes with building a sense of community. I asked my AI colleague about community gardening, and here is what it thinks (does artificial intelligence think?):

Foods grown in community gardens hold significant value for both the community and the individuals involved in the process. Community gardens provide a space for people to come together and grow their own food, which can lead to increased social connections and a sense of community.

Additionally, community gardens can provide access to fresh, healthy produce for individuals living in food deserts or areas with limited access to fresh produce. By growing their own food, individuals can also develop important skills related to gardening and sustainable agriculture.

Community gardens can also be a source of environmental benefits, as they can promote biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions associated with transporting food.

Overall, foods grown in community gardens have the potential to not only provide fresh, healthy produce, but also to strengthen communities and promote sustainability.

Not bad for a machine and a few thousand lines of code.

Flavours of Launceston takes community gardening from the growing phase into cooking and eating and enacts the values inherent in community gardening that the AI writes about.

Cooking from the book

Not only is Community Gardens Australia’s Naomi Lacey something of an evangelist for community gardening, she is also a good cook. We found that out when she, Fiona and I were staying at a guesthouse at Duck Reach, which is the end of the road at Cataract Gorge in Launceston, in an old bluestone building once accommodation for the staff of the Duck Reach power station that made Launceston the first hydro-illuminated city in the country and one of the first in the world.

Fiona brought the first night’s meal with us, a vegetable curry from the Flavours of Launceston recipe book. Subsequent evening meals were the combined efforts of Naomi and Geoff Dean, partner of Flavours of Launcestonproject coordinator Jo Dean, who live close by. Accompanied by Tasmanian wines, these were convivial meals.

The book launch and recipes we tried were memorable, but there was more.

The workshop

It was a busy scene at the compost workshop as Fiona cooked scones and pumpkin soup and reheated the vegetable soup cooked at the book and website launch by the 24 Carrot School Gardens chefs. Outside, Naomi and Russ puzzled their way through the assembly instructions for the flat pack rotary compost bin Jo was about to demonstrate.

The food was to feed participants after the workshop that Jo was leading at Ravenswood Heights Primary School, one of the participating schools in the 24 Carrot School Gardens program with which Jo works as project manager, and where she is based. Funded by the Materials Institute, the project engages students at disadvantaged schools in food production and cooking. Among those participating were four people from nearby M.A.C.S Community Garden/Mens’ Shed, including Shane Forest whom we had previously interviewed.

Participants plant seedlings during Jo Dean’s composting workshop at Ravenswood Primary School.

A song to say goodbye

A book, tasty food, convivial meals, a workshop and a few days in this fine northern Tasmanian city. It was a sign of how Community Gardens Australia is setting a new course for community-based urban agriculture not only in Tasmania but in that large island to our north.

The ending of the evening was as memorable as the start as the choir sang Isa Lei, the traditional Fijian song of farewell.

To end the evening the choir sang the traditional Fijian song of farewell, Isa Lei.

Find out more

flavours of Launceston
Jo Dean with A load of Fiona’s herb and cheese scones ready for workshop participants.

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