The average Australian’s food system is comprised of food grown both locally and imported from around the globe. Since the industrialisation and commercialisation of food, the average Australian household is no longer restricted in choice of food by factors such as season, environmental suitability, life span or locality. In a report entitled “Food miles In Australia: A preliminary study of Melbourne, Victoria” by Sophie Giballa and Asha Abraham, the report states that it is not uncommon practice for food to be grown for export locally in an Australian region, shipped overseas to be processed or packaged cheaply and then imported back to the local community for consumption (Giballa and Abraham, 2007 p1). It is evidential that this system of food supply is creating strain on both our natural resources and environmental sustainability. Australia’s current food system accounts for up to 33% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions when factors such as household preparation and waste disposal are attributed; surprisingly 22% of those emissions occur in production and transport alone (Dixon and Hattersley, 2009 p 14). However, as concerns over food prices and food security increase with rising awareness of the environmental impacts of climate change and depletion of non-renewable resources, communities and local governments are investing in sustainable and localised alternatives to the current industrial food system. One such alternative is urban farming and community gardens.
Community gardens and community agriculture in the context of modern industrialised communities are not new initiatives; in fact the use of community gardens in industrialised society can be traced back to 1819 in the United Kingdom (Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network, 2002). Historically community gardens have been the upshot of fiscal hardships and reduced resources within a community. For example, during world war one and two, reduction in available food supplies for communities, reduced financial support from governments and economic difficulties spurred the creation of ‘victory gardens’. The victory gardens campaign was enormously successful in countries such as the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Germany, where the purpose was to use available land within local communities, such as residential yards and local parks, to grow consumable food for the local residents and in tern reducing pressure on government finances and resources that were needed for the war effort (Victory Gardens Initiative, 2009)(Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network, 2002). Contemporary community gardens and urban agriculture, similarly to their predecessors, are also being created out of a need to reduce dependency on resources, provide an alternative solution to economic hardship, and to create self-sufficient communities. By the end of the 21st century, for the first time in human history, most of the worlds population will live in urban developments, as the population of rural areas across the globe will become stagnate by 2019 (Saunders, 2010 p21). Further to this, with the onset of climate change and the depletion of non-renewable resources, serious concerns are held for the feasibility of the global industrial food system that most developed countries, including Australia, depend on (Dixon and Hattersley, 2009). Food security and sustainability will become one of the baggiest issues facing Australian communities in the future, so now more than ever there is a need to provide communities with local and sustainable food systems (Feenstra, 1997).
Community Gardens and Urban Farming provide a realistic future for Australian communities to create sustainable development. By reducing the need for extensive transport, packaging and processing of food by localising the food system, community gardens and urban farming create a sustainable alternative to the industrial food system.
My first goal is to reduce my dependency on imported food and decrease my personal food miles.
I’ve located three farmers markets (CERES farmers market, Queen Victoria, and Richmond) from which I can get my weekly food and are within walking/biking distance.
Additionally, I am lucky enough to have a few food retailers that supply local produce and are easily accessible (Friends of the Earth and Wholefoods.)
To make achieving this goal a little easier I have also cut out 95% of my meat intake (sorry mum!). I’m also only drinking wine and beer from within the state and as close to my postcode as possible. Beers that are brewed close to Collingwood for example:
To conclude, each week for the duration of the month I will post on how the local diet is working out (IRL) and any other related information/ struggles. For the meanwhile here is an interesting TED talk on the subject 🙂