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UAF 2016 Summary and Review

Henry Crawford, Sustain: The Australian Food Network

The University of Melbourne, Burnley Campus, November 20-21 2016


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The 2016 Urban Agriculture Forum was held on November 20-21 at the University of Melbourne’s Burnely Campus. The event was  organized by Sustain: The Australian Food Network in partnership the University of Melbourne Burnley Campus, 3000 Acres, Cultivating Community, Moreland Food Gardens Network, The City of Yarra, and Port Phillip Ecocentre. The Forum brought together over 200 people for both days of the event, with representatives from a range of areas across state and local government, the education, university and TAFE sectors, designers and urban planning, urban farmers, community and backyard gardeners, chefs and restaurateurs, food social enterprise and retail businesses, health professionals, emergency food relief providers, and food rescue and waste management authorities.

Showcasing over 35 speakers across two days, the 2016 UAF included international keynote speakers from the Netherlands in Debra Solomon (Urbaniahoeve) and Henk de Zeeuw (RUAF), international guest Pablo Ermini from Argentina, and an impressive list of representatives from around Australian that included;

Following on from the 2016 Urban Agriculture Forum was a national speaking tour which saw keynotes Debra Solomon and Henk de Zeeuw travel to Bendigo, Adelaide and Sydney in the days following the Forum. An Open Garden Day was also held on the 19th of November where over twenty gardens around Melbourne signed up to showcase and celebrate the richness and diversity of urban food growing spaces around the city. Garden gates were opened to the public to take part in scheduled tours, talks, workshops and food sharing events. Among the list of gardens involved were; 3000 Acres Saxon Street Garden, CERES Organic Farm & Community Garden, Fareshare Garden, Moreland Community Garden (West Brunswick), and the Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre Multicultural Food Garden.

The Forum itself was an outstanding success, with the event succeeding in achieving its main objectives of;

  1. Creating more resilient urban environments, strengthening food security and meeting the challenges of adapting to climate change
  2. Enhanced access to fresh fruit and vegetables, especially for marginalised and low-income communities
  3. Employment and training opportunities for disadvantaged and marginalised groups
  4. Reduced environmental impacts through less transport, packaging and storage
  5. Recognising and celebrating the achievements of the urban agriculture movement over the past decade (and in some cases before) in Australia, both at the community and local government levels

Keynote Presentations

Debra Solomon / Urbaniahoeve: The City as our Farm / Urban Agriculture foodshed, watershed and the climate crisis: new roles for humans within forest garden and urban soil ecosystems

In her keynote presentation, Debra Solomon discussed cases from her work in Urbaniahoeve Social Design Lab for Urban Agriculture since 2009, including activities ranging from forest garden implementation to in situ topsoil production and remediation, to art production. Debra show’s how different approaches to soil and biodiversity analysis frame different perceptions of the human role towards the ecosystem. She argue’s that aside from yielding different insights into soil fertility, the freedom of the artistic practice that allows for visualisation techniques to be interpreted as data (e.g. soil chromatography), complementary to quantification techniques, also yield perceptions of the relationship between humans with regard to the soil organism and ultimately to the ecosystem at large, and that guide human behaviour and governance.

Download and listen to Debra Solomon's keynote presentation here (.m4a, 80mb)

Henk De Zeeuw / Senior advisor RUAF Foundation / The role of urban agriculture in the development of healthy, sustainable and resilient cities

In his keynote presentation, Henk de Zeeuw begins by providing the RUAF definition of urban agriculture, which includes intra- and peri-urban agriculture, production for self-consumption or social functions as well as commercial agriculture, on land as well as on rooftops and indoors, production as well as processing and distribution. Henk illustrates these dimensions of urban agriculture by providing a number of examples from both the global North and global South. Through recognising urban agriculture as a dynamic and innovative sector of the urban system, Henk suggests it can play various functions in the development of a sustainable, inclusive and resilient city by addressing some critical urban challenges faced by cities today. Three urban challenges are explored; increasing urban food insecurity and malnutrition, growing urban ecological and resilience problems, lack of employment / enterprise development.

The presentation concludes with some of the lessons learnt by the RUAF Foundation through working with over 25 cities to develop specific food and agriculture policy / strategies or programme(s). These lessons provide the basis for the learning points Henk then explores regarding the factors that strongly influence success in food and agriculture policy development and action planning.