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Community gardens: Places for food production, places for people

Bodel, N. and Anda, M. (1996) Community gardens: Places for food production, places for people. In: 6th International Permaculture Conference & Convergence (IPC6), 27 September - 7 October, Perthand Bridgetown, Western Australia

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"Restore the commons!" we are beginning to hear more loudly. The 'commons' can again be a means of having urban food production, as well as quality public open space offering a variety of activities and creating a sense of community. The 'commons' in the modern city will be known as the 'green corridor', 'community garden' or 'city farm'. It will be integrated into the restructured, low density, automobile city as part of urban renewal towards sustainability and it can be done by means of permaculture ethics and principles.

Food production will not tend to be helpful in the city, is if it is seen as a way of giving large numbers of people a big block of land on the urban fringe to grow their own food and rear their own animals, ie. if it is seen as being a totally privatised pursuit, needing comparatively large areas of private land for each household. This will tend to spread the city, creating similar problems to traditional low density suburban sprawl, with everyone needing to own two or more cars, drive long distances to major destinations around the city without any viable public transport system, while generating a big demand for petrol and high production of automotive emissions.

Where food production can be constructive in our cities is where it can be integrated into a philosophy of more compact urban design and housing and efficient use of land, such that it will provide more greenery and a closer, more practical and useful relationship with nature right in the city. Urban food production can be more effectively practiced in community gardens or city farms within a communal framework, with individuals sharing and pooling their skills, rather than on a privatised basis. For example, Vancouver in British Columbia has many high density housing developments built as housing cooperatives and surrounded by extensive gardens and other horticultural activities. The houses are designed on passive and active solar design principles and are located in good proximity to other urban activities, accessible by foot, bicycle and public transport. These qualities are what many people are seeking on a suburban or peri-urban block of land, but in too many cases it is not what is achieved - cars are the only viable form of transport, there is little contact with nature, the land is wasted and it needs large quantities of water and other resources to maintain it.

This paper will provide a background to the creation of Community Gardens and will then discuss a number of examples in Perth, Western Australia. The focus will be on the suburban sites City Farm in East Perth and Florence Park in South Fremantle.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Environmental Science
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