FARMERS MARKETS, food cooperatives, edible school gardens, community farms and community gardens are just a few of the community driven sustainable food systems gaining massive popularity.
Following is an article published in the newsletter of the Urban Sustainability Support Alliance (USSA) of the Local Government Association of NSW and Shires Association of NSW in July 2009.
In preparing the article, the Association's Rebecca Jones consulted with Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network media liaison, Russ Grayson.
Russ Grayson from the Australia City Farms and Community Garden Network says “the current surge in interest in sustainable food systems can be traced to factors such as a growing distrust of food products and the desire to have some control over what individuals and families consume as their food supply.”
Community food gardens are one area which councils are now facilitating.
The USSA spoke with community gardeners and local government officers to find out ways local government are supporting this growing initiative.
The key is to assist the community group and guide without controlling it. However it seems that a more structured and streamlined approach for local government could be timely especially in areas where there is a high community demand.
10 ways council can help support community gardens
- Assess community demand. Consider conducting a needs analysis by identifying champions, talking to existing groups, using surveys or conducting focus groups.
- Gain council support. Promote an understanding of community gardening internally. City of Sydney have produced a Getting Started in Community Guide http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/Environment/documents/CommunityGardens.pdf
- Develop a community garden policy or process. Some examples are listed here http://www.communitygarden.org.au/policies/index.html (now here)
- Form a internal council working group. Staff represented should include those from community development, planning, parks and gardens, environment.
- Assess suitable public land for the development of community gardens. Assist interested groups find suitable land to suit their particular vision for a garden.
- Assist community groups apply for grant funding or provide grant funding eg. City of Sydney grant program http://cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/Community/GrantsAndAwards/Default.asp
- Promote community gardens eg. organize a bus tour, promote opening times and working bees.
- Partner with other groups to run local events linked sustainable food systems eg. Illawarra Food Fairness Alliance, Lane Cove Council and Permaculture North (Lane Cove) Grow You Own Food workshop.
- Provide training and in-kind support based on need eg. conflict resolution and problem solving training, skill sharing workshops, mulch, plants, compost bins.
- Recognize community volunteers and celebrate achievements e.g council award programs.
Other food related events and opportunities
The Sydney Food Fairness Alliance (http://sydneyfoodfairness.org.au) in advocating fair access by all to nutritious foods and the preservation of Sydney's periurban farming system that supplies the city with fresh, perishable foods and is the basis of an industry that supports up to 12,000 jobs. The Alliance is organising a Food Summit in Sydney in October this year as the start of developing a food policy for NSW.