video 1Earlier in the year around 70 SGA supporters made the trek out to Brunswick to participate in the first in a series of World Café style events as part of SGA’s ongoing commitment to inspire, empower and connect communities to garden sustainably.   A World Café event typically revolves around a single question that participants discuss with each other over a series of rounds.  The question for the evening was “what are the possibilities when modern communities grow more of their own food?”   At the end of the evening our panelists Pete Huff (Yarra City Council), Natasha Kuperman (My Home Harvest) and Cam Walker (Friends of the Earth) answered questions from our participants.

video 4The evening kicked off with a welcome address from SGA Futures Committee member and MC for the evening, Linette Harriott.  She asked participants to begin discussing the topic with the rest of their table and then, after 10 minutes to elect a captain who would remain seated while the rest of the participants found another table.  The table captains recorded ideas and questions in what was a very exciting and positive atmosphere.

We made a Wordle from the recorded ideas.  It captures the frequency of word use and eliminates common words such as “but”, “however” and “about”.Picture2We noted some interesting words such as sharehood, enoughness and guerrilla.

In the third and final round, each table had to formulate one question that would then be posed to the expert panel.  The key questions were:

  • If you could do something immediately to make possibility “reality”, what would you do?
  • How do you engage people in seeing themselves as a community growing food?
  • Can local government be influenced to increase access to backyard food production strategies?
  • What are the most common barriers for councils in opening public space up for gardening?
  • From a local government perspective, how do we capture the enthusiasm of new/novice gardeners and provide them with the knowledge they need to keep gardening?
  • What have you learned in your roles about confronting the challenges facing modern communities E.g. climate change, biodiversity, connecting with each other?
  • How do we get more support in our schools for great benefits of gardening and cooking of produce?
  • What about kerbside/naturestrip gardening, garden patches in new estates, encouraging front yard veggie patches?
  • How can we develop the CERES model in each community? Is there a better model?
  • How do we enable individuals and communities to grow more food? E.g government involvement versus bottom up and connecting isolated individuals and groups.

video 3Pete Huff, Urban Agriculture Facilitator for Yarra City Council discussed pragmatic aspects of working with local government in establishing community produce gardens.  Pete believes that building relationships with local councillors and being flexible with ideas are a great way to start.  By bringing together diverse cultures and celebrating food and produce gardening Pete believes we can keep the sustainable agriculture movement surging forward.

Natasha Kuperman, talked of the changing nature of home produce gardening with more people looking online for information and to make connections within their local communities.  She believes by encouraging beginners and improving access to information for the whole community we can help individuals start growing their own food. According to Natasha, food swaps, sharing know-how and rediscovering forgotten skills are just some of the benefits of communities growing their own food.

Cam Walker focused on more long-term aspects in relation to sustainable agriculture, in particular sustaining motivation and interest with relevant stakeholders.   According to Cam there is no downside to locally produced and community controlled food and that this is something we need to continue promoting along with its obvious benefits.  Cam encourages us all to maintain an international consciousness when considering the changing nature of food production around the world as peri-urban agricultural practices evolve in line with exploding urban populations.

We thank our expert panellists, our participants and the Courthouse Hotel for hosting us.  If you have any ideas for a future World Café or any feedback you would like to provide us with please leave or comment or send an email.

The video below records the panel discussion.