This November, Sustain is showcasing and celebrating the growing urban agriculture movement around Australia. Sustain’s Executive Director, Nick Rose, explains why alternative, local and urban food movements are increasingly important and highlights some of the events happening as part of Urban Agriculture Month.
By some accounts, over 1 billion people around the world are involved in some form of urban agriculture - the growing and producing of food in towns and cities - to some extent. According to one of the world's leading agroecologists, Miguel Altieri, in 1990 urban agriculture produced 15-20% of the world's food - but by 2005 that had risen to 30%. Now it's likely much more. In many cities in Africa and Asia, urban agriculture generates over half the populations' requirements for fruit, vegetables, eggs and some animal products - including cities as large as Shanghai, Beijing, Hanoi, Dar es Salaam and Dakar. Altieri notes that 'well-designed urban farms can be up to 15 times more productive in terms of total output than rural holdings', with Cuba a prime example, where 1m2 produces 20kg of food per year.
We're entering a decade the likes of which none of us have ever experienced. Crises are cascading and converging: climate, covid, cost of living, and war. All of this takes its toll on our health and wellbeing - mental, physical, dietary and community. More Australians than ever are facing food insecurity, with the food banks swamped by demand. Our food system is failing in its most basic task: to feed and nourish us all well.
We need positive, empowering responses, which is exactly what Urban Agriculture Month is all about. It's a celebration of everyone involved in the wonderful diversity of actions and projects that make up the expanding field of urban agriculture in Australia. It's also a call to action for more people to get involved, from individuals growing their own food to governments resourcing community gardens and creating frameworks to enable and support access to land, water and infrastructure.
Here's a small selection of the events already registered for Urban Agriculture Month around Australia:
- Westmeadows Indigenous Garden Open Afternoon, Westmeadows, Vic
- Planning a productive summer veggie garden with Dick Copeman, Windsor, Qld
- Edible gardens for renters, Alexandria, NSW
- Wakefield Community Garden Balaklava Open Day with plant produce sale or swap, Balaklava, SA
- Incredible Edible: Urban Farms of Perth, East Perth, WA
- Wicking Bed Workshop, New Norfolk, Tas
- Open Day at Westside Community Garden, Gillen, NT
Check out the events at urbanagriculturemonth.org.au - and better still, organise something yourself! Being involved in the simple act of growing and raising food is humbling and powerful. If enough of us are involved, and help build this movement, then it becomes transformative.
As one of the 9,140 respondents to our Pandemic Gardening survey (2020) wrote so movingly, "Every seed I plant is a wish for tomorrow". Let's all plant some seeds and help create the beautiful future that we know is within our reach.
-  Altieri, M. A., & Nicholls, C. I. (2018). Urban agroecology: designing biodiverse, productive and resilient city farms. Agro Sur, 46(2), 49-60.