This Report describes a Churchill Fellowship to study innovative models of urban agriculture in the US Midwest, Toronto and five provinces of Argentina. The focus of the study was to explore models of urban agriculture that could generate livelihood opportunities, especially for young people; and / or enhance food security for vulnerable and low-income groups. The study involved visits to over 80 organisations and institutions across the regions visited, and interviews with more than 150 people.
Dr Rose was impressed and inspired in every place he visited. The following are examples of outstanding innovation, passion and creativity:
- VK Urban Farms, Chicago, Eric and Nicky von Kondrat
- Urban Canopy Farms, Alex Poltorak
- Victory Gardens Initiative, Milwaukee, Gretchen Mead
- Keep Growing Detroit, Detroit, Ashley Atkinson
- Earthworks Farm / Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Detroit, Patrick Crouch
- Community Food Centres, Toronto, Nick Saul
- Black Creek Community Farm, Toronto, Verity Dimock
- Pro Huerta Tucuman, San Miguel de Tucuman, Jose ‘Pancho’ Zelaya
- Urban Agriculture, Municipality of Rosario, Antonio Lattuca
- Programa PRODA, Neuquén, Ariel Zabert
- Pca Dos Chanar, Neuquén, Ignacio Pastawaki
Major lessons learnt and conclusions
Urban agriculture is flourishing; and is a source of connectedness, health and well-being, innovation, creativity, sustainable livelihoods, therapeutic benefits and enhanced food security for low-income populations in both North and South America. There are many opportunities for innovative models, enterprises, practices and policies to be adopted and supported in Australia. Commitment and resourcing from state and federal governments, and from the philanthropic and private sectors, would be extremely beneficial in terms of rapidly expanding and scaling up a relatively small but highly capable urban agriculture movement in Australia. Local governments have a critical strategic role in establishing support planning and policy frameworks to enable individuals and organisations to expand the excellent work already underway in Australia’s towns and cities.
Dissemination and implementation plan
Dissemination will be via existing (e.g. Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network) and emerging (‘Fair Food Network’) Australia-wide networks; through speaking engagements at food forums and related events; and through publications and writing. Dr Rose will work with colleagues in these networks, and in local governments around the country, to encourage the development of models, policies and resources to enable the expansion of urban agriculture. Longer-term goals include the recognition of urban agriculture in State planning frameworks; and the recognition of, and support for, urban agriculture in Federal food policy.
- Individuals and organisations directly involved in urban agriculture should actively explore ways to expand its current scope, which is largely confined to non-commercial and self-provisioning community gardening. Urban agriculture as a potentially viable commercial activity should be actively explored and promoted; as should urban agriculture as a means to enhance the food security of low-income and vulnerable groups.
- Individuals and organisations directly and indirectly involved in urban agriculture should examine ways in which they can effectively form part of a network that supports the achievement of their respective organisational, financial and advocacy goals.
- All local governments should work collaboratively with community organisations and other stakeholders to audit all land potentially available within their LGA area that could be suitable for food production, and then classify the sites according to levels of suitability and types of urban agriculture activity that potentially could take place on them.
- All State governments should review their planning provisions and legislation to ensure that urban agriculture is included as a permitted and encouraged use across a range of zones, to indicate to local government that the policy approach in this area is one of enablement and encouragement, rather than risk aversion. In other words, the presumption with urban agriculture should be ‘yes’ rather than ‘no’.
- The Federal Government should acknowledge the value and importance of urban agriculture, and indeed of local food systems and economies, as a matter of public health, local economic development, environmental sustainability and community well-being, as well as enhanced social capital.
- This acknowledgement and recognition should come in the form of a dedicated Federal Urban Agriculture and Local Food Fund, to be disbursed via an application process that encourages regional and collaborative initiatives with high and long-term impact, to scale up and expand initiatives already existing, and enable the flourishing of multiple new projects and models. Funding should be provided to research partnerships to document changes achieved by the projects and create the evidence base to justify further and ongoing public and private investment. The amount should be reviewed annually to take account of increasing need and capacity, however the suggested starting figure, based on the Ontario Local Food Fund (see above), is $20 mn.
- State governments should support this Federal Urban Agriculture and Local Food Fund through their own co-financing mechanisms, according to an assessment of the needs and capacity of the urban agriculture and local food sectors in their own states. For the more populous states (Victoria, NSW, Qld) this co-financing mechanism should be in the order of $5 mn – $10 mn, to be reviewed annually in consultation with the sector. Different financing mechanisms can also be explored, such as a levy on developers, supermarkets, insurance companies, and other relevant private sector stakeholders.
For more information and a copy of the full report please click here.