On the mild morning of Wednesday, the 19th of April, three students arrived early at FLO for an exciting excursion to Melbourne, a city around two hours away from the campus. The purpose of this trip was to discover firsthand how other community organisations have been able to utilize public land for the purpose of urban agriculture, and to find out the best ways to create a garden while seeking possible difficulties we may encounter during the development and construction of our very own. This is how the day went:
After being bundled into the school van (which has a great sound system might I add) and driven all the way to the big city, we arrived at our first destination: Jewell Community Garden, Brunswick. It was much sunnier compared to the cloudy morning, and the warmth of the weather had us in a bright mood. We crossed the road towards a colourful sign.
The first thing you see when you stand outside Jewell Community Garden is a small yet flourishing public garden with friendly signs stuck in the soil beside the plants. Cabbage white butterflies fluttered dozily around the few flowers scattered between greenery, and we were introduced to our garden guide for the day, Carlos, who worked and volunteered for 3000 Acres.
Looking around the site, it seems pretty small. There are tall metal fences surrounding the rectangular plot and its planter boxes full of tomato vines and herbs drowned in sunlight. The brick wall of a next-door building was covered in colourful artwork, a tiny urban paradise full of green. It was refreshing, and calm. Our guide explained that the plants out the front were for anybody passing by, a nice idea that surprisingly hadn’t turned nasty. The garden was small and potentially hard to find, but those who came out of the train station nearby would walk past, so visibility was not too much of an issue. The theme seemed quiet, artsy maybe. A café was accessible from inside the plot, and they apparently exchanged fresh produce for occasional use of electricity facilities.
With our itineraries/checklists, we judged Jewell Community Garden on its features, it got around 8/10, and continued on to the next place.
The next garden we went to see, Condell Street Community Garden, was much more accessible, no fencing, open skies, anybody could just walk up and meddle with (or assist) the plants. That’s because it was located on a strip of grass between two small roads. There was an apartment block just a few streets away, and we were told residents enjoyed having a make-shift backyard close by, which was not hard to believe. It was cozy, smack bang in the middle of the street, open access to all. Some planter boxes had signs with the names (I can assume) of the gardeners tending to that particular box, and some had (friendly?) ones requesting things like ‘Please don’t take our veggies’ in nice swirly writing. The setup was big enough, but much lengthier than the even-edged quadrangle that we last visited. Excluding that, it really was a decent plot. They had installed a big water tank right next to the planting area, and thrown nets over a few of the boxes to protect their plants. It was a prime example of an urban garden.
Last, but certainly not least, we visited Fare Share Urban Garden Abbotsford, located in an essentially perfect area. On the drive there with Carlos, our helper for the day, we were shown the base of the Fare Share community. Fare Share helps to feed families and reduce food waste, growing veggies to make meals for the hungry. In some twist of fate, we googled and found out that, in a sort of indirect way, FLO got vacuum packed meals from Fare Share’s cooks too. The more you know.
There was a tall sign as we drove in, shouting at passers-by that a garden existed there. The fenced in area that held the plants was spacious and simple, little office sheds decorated with colourful paint and patterns brightened it up, and rows of flourishing veggie plants stretched straight down the plot. Sweet potato, zucchini, butternut squash, all sorts of things peeked out from under greenery. Fare Share was an inside look into what made up a thriving garden.
Following our arrival, a couple of dedicated gardeners showed us nutrient-rich soil straight from composting, and explained that they were getting ready to put in new crops. The place was big and bright, with a sort of veranda-type concrete slab that they had built wooden shelter on. We walked up the steps and looked at even more flora, this time in a makeshift-greenhouse and planter boxes. A few helpers were potting plants in the shade. Bees buzzed around flowers relaxedly, and we chatted with Carlos as we filled in our checklists. The place was rated 9/10, if only for more electrical facilities it would have certainly been a 10.
All in all, the day was a success. We relaxed and had fun, learnt a lot about gardening, and now have a better understanding of what we need for our very own urban garden. Soon enough we'll be growing, and personally, I can't wait.
Written by FLO student Levi