Rising living costs and broken supply chains have seen a resurgence in backyard food growing and with it, a return to local food swapping and increased community resilience.Exchanges come in many forms. Be it a monthly crop swap at the local park, a roadside stall, mailbox seed library, skill sharing or swapping produce through social media, there are many different models in use. Whatever form it takes, the common theme is that no money changes hands. Instead it’s about exchanging homegrown produce, reducing waste, sharing local knowledge and, most importantly, fostering a sense of community.Many people realised that growing your own food isn’t as easy as planting something one day and harvesting great produce down the track. And after spending hundreds of dollars on soil, raised garden beds and seedlings during the pandemic, only to end up with tiny tomatoes or a handful of half-eaten leafy greens, many reached out to growers in their community for advice and found it at their local edible exchange.
Flying foxes are vital for biodiversity, pollination and a healthy ecosystem. And some researchers believe they could be functionally extinct by 2050.Just as permaculture is an interconnected system, so is Australia’s native ecosystem. Fruit bats, or flying foxes, play an important role in keeping the ecosystem in balance as many plants rely on them for their survival.They are a keystone species primarily responsible for the pollination and seed dispersal of larger trees, including eucalypts. Flying foxes can travel great distances meaning they’re capable of pollinating forests that have been fragmented by land clearing.
At the gate that opens into the gardens of Seedwell’s St Kilda site, there is a blooming eucalyptus caesia. For the people of the Kulin nation, this gum represents coming of age for young people and for Seedwell it represents a similar idea.Seedwell is an urban permaculture facility which grew out of St Kilda’s Salvation Army Youth and Family Crisis Accommodation Centre. The Salvation Army Seedwell Collaboration started in 2017, an initiative between The Salvation Army and non-profit organisation Marist180, and is run in conjunction with Jesuit Social Services.The Seedwell program teaches young people and the broader community permaculture and sustainability skills. It aims to increase awareness about healthy living while also incorporating permaculture’s healing benefits. There are successful kitchen garden programs at both their St Kilda and Brunswick sites, as well as gardening classes and Permaculture Design Courses.
As urban centres expand and suburbs sprawl, farmers sometimes find their rural idyll hemmed in by the reach of the city. When they found they were losing their quiet country surrounds, Kate Beveridge and her partner Mark Brown of Purple Pear Farm faced the choice to sell up and move further out, or stay put and feed the community that had come to them.Kate and her family first moved to their small acreage in 1995. Driven by a passion for growing food, Kate and Mark soon saw the potential of the land and its location. Nestled in the crook of the Hunter River, on the outskirts of Maitland in NSW, it seemed a perfect place to provide local food for the town.
Close to Perth’s central business district, something is growing by the Midland railway line. For over 20 years, Perth City Farm (a not-for-profit community garden, educational centre and urban oasis) has been welcoming members of the community through its gates.The team that started Perth City Farm was made up of Rosanne Scott, Chris Ferreira, Clayton Chipper and Neal Bodel, with support coming from not-for-profit, non-political society Men of the Trees. Men of the Trees aimed to improve WA’s environmental quality, get local youth involved in environmental efforts and promote health and wellbeing through permaculture. ‘We wanted to inspire people to do environmental work,’ Chris explains.These values have flowed through to Perth City Farm, in addition to others the farm would go on to develop. Using the acronym PEACE, Perth City Farm aims to promote permaculture and the environment, education, arts, community and personal development, and enterprise.
Fair Harvest Permaculture is a testament to Jodie Lane and her dedication to community. Created over the last two decades, Fair Harvest is everything a permaculture demonstration site should be: a living, breathing example of permaculture principles in action, honouring the three permaculture ethics. But it is not the physical examples of permaculture that are most striking; it’s the community involvement that stands out the most.Although Jodie is the heart and soul of Fair Harvest she has not made it what it is today on her own. Over the years she’s made it a hub for her local community and people passing through, who want to learn more about permaculture; feeding them, sharing her home with them and sharing her knowledge.The 145 hectare property on the edge of Margaret River, 270 kilometres south of Perth WA, was bought by her parents in 1986 as degraded farmland with very few trees. Today it is a thriving example of working permaculture systems, with a focus on regenerative farming.
‘Permablitz the Gong’ began as a conversation between three Wollongong women – Jacqui Besgrove, Sheryl Wiffen and Kristy Newton – in 2011 after Jacqui and Kristy completed their Permaculture Design Course (PDC). The women wanted to do something about food and sustainability at a community level, and got together with Rebecca Mayhew soon after; hosting their first permablitz on International Permaculture Day in May 2012.Ten permablitzes, five frog ponds, six chicken houses, two native zones, five verge gardens, three DIY water tanks, kilos of sheet mulch, a garden tour, a seed bombing workshop and many swales and no dig gardens later, they think they have something worth holding on to. That’s what can happen when permaculture designers get together with willing workers and properties in need of love.Permablitz originated in Melbourne, was founded by Dan Palmer (who had worked with a South American community group called CODEMO), and evolved into a network of designers and groups that coordinate permablitzes locally. Permablitz Melbourne has been generous in sharing information. Wollongong has several diverse communities, and we tweaked the information to fit our culture and the core collective’s capacity to design, organise and facilitate permablitzes. We practised on three of our own backyards.
I am developing a small farming business, with my partner Kirsti, which grows good food for our community. We aim to do that in an environmentally, socially and financially sustainable way. My personal aim is to regenerate this twenty-six hectare property into a farm that will be multigenerational in its viability. Whether I can achieve that or not remains to be seen, but I’m going to give it a good crack.What inspired you to leave the city and give farming a go?Even though we enjoyed a lot of aspects of living in the city, the reality of remaining there meant we’d both be working six days a week, and in the process of thinking about an alternative, somehow we ended up here. We had no plan; it evolved as we learnt more and it’s still evolving. There are probably still more tragedies than there should be, but we’re getting closer and learning every day.
I have been in Australia for two years. I left the refugee camp in Uganda because it was very crowded, there was a lot of sickness because of poor sanitation; sometimes people had to share beds and drips in hospital because of the lack of medical provision. After seven years as a refugee, I was tired of watching people die of hunger and sickness, especially children, people with disability and women. However, that life experience made me the person that I am today. As part of a youth association there, we were given some land and started farming it, and I was also a community social worker. I now realise that each time we face our fears we become more of the courageous person that we would like to be; we are the sum of experiences that we encounter as we go through life.FamilyMy wife sponsored me to come to Australia. She resettled here three years before me – being married and apart was very hard. But now we are together, and we have a baby daughter, Duciel.
On a steep and uneven hillside adjacent to Warrawong High School, south of Wollongong in NSW, a social enterprise called Green Connect is running a farm called Urban Grown. Green Connect combines permaculture ethics and design principles, with employment opportunities for resettled refugees and at-risk youth, to create an amazing model for urban sustainability; the farm produces as many social outcomes as chemical-free lettuces.Green Connect and Urban Grown, originally two separate projects of the Port Kembla Community Project, merged in February 2014 when the funding for Urban Grown ceased. Green Connect staff committed to taking on the farm on a volunteer basis to see it through to financial sustainability.Green Connect aims to: grow and distribute chemical-free food in the local area; reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill; and turn organic waste into a productive resource. It also: creates green, socially useful jobs, especially for resettled refugees and young people; helps empower people to care for each other and the planet; and achieves social and environmental aims through trade.