By Alanna Ketler / 11.11.2016
Photos by Harriet Tatham
More and more, people are joining an initiative to grow their own food and in turn, are fighting the current corrupt systems. You may have heard of the popular Grow Food Not lawns movement, which has many people turning their front and back yards into gardens for growing food.
I mean when you think about it, it makes a lot more sense: what benefit do lawns provide us with anyways? They don’t attract bees, are a lot of effort to maintain, and generally require a lot of pesticides and fertilizers to keep the pests out and the grass growing lush and green. Surprisingly, in many States in the U.S. it is actually illegal to turn your front yard into a garden.
Two Australians have started the country’s first integrated edible streetscape after being upset over the grocery store price of a single lime. These folks are aiming to live a simple organic lifestyle that includes community and of course, fresh food.
Duncan McNaught and Caroline Kemp are the brains behind Buderim’s Urban Food Street.
Urban Food Street began in 2009 in the Queensland suburb of Buderim, and now sets a great example of what can be done with the great Australian nature strip.
“It started with us deciding to plant limes, and then it evolved into this notion that if we put the limes out on the nature strip, people could pick a lime for whatever they need it for,” graduate architect and one of the masterminds behind Urban Food Street, Caroline Kemp, said.
The project began with one street growing citrus and in just a short period of time has blossomed into an 11 street garden forest, with various seasonal fruits, vegetables herbs, and spices. This community encourages the growing, sourcing, and eating fresh organic foods.
A selection of the plentiful produce from Buderim’s Urban Food Street.
Encouraging Community Participation
Co-Founder of the project, Duncan Mcnaught, said the re-envisioned neighbourhood has inspired some new forms of participation.
“One of the problems with cooking is you never have the herbs you need at 8 o’clock at night, but now we have the neighbourhood, and you just go down and you just take whatever you need for that meal,” Mr. McNaught said.
“That keeps a car off the road, makes it easier for the meal, and it’s also healthier because you’re walking. That’s what the neighbourhood is about: walking and engaging,” he said.
Not every house in the 11 street block participates in growing the produce, but the rule is that if you are a resident in the neighbourhood you are welcome to enjoy the benefits.
“Quite often the households that aren’t growing will provide a hose to water or some other skill — they might have a skill in jam-making and then that will go on tables at working bees and for people to buy,” Ms. Kemp said.
“We see contribution as a fluid thing.”
How amazing is that? Everyone can contribute what he or she wants according to the skills they have. Working together as a community can have many benefits for everyone involved, not to mention, in this case, the free food!
Starting out as just a simple way to cut personal food costs down and to have fresh, organic produce at their fingertips, Urban Food Street has been able to enter a semi-commercial realm based on the sheer volume they have been able to produce. In 2015 alone, the neighbourhood produced nearly 2000 pounds of bananas and 300 cabbages.
Duncan McNaught eats a kumquat on the side of the road.
Location, Location, Location
The neighbourhood is perched on the Western side of Buderim, and Ms. Kemp and Mr. McNaught have said that the structural layout of the suburb has helped the Urban Food Street flourish.
“Buderim was historically cut with the grass growing right to the street edge. In terms of design that is 101 Sustainability because you’re actually capturing the water in the grass and it’s filtering and not ending up with sediment in our creeks,” Ms. Kemp said.
The Urban Street Food project is about designing whole neighbourhoods around the principles of permaculture. Hopefully, new developments will keep this idea in mind and other pre-existing neighborhoods will consider it too.
“It’s about neighbourhoods right across the country being designed in a structural manner that accommodates people being able to do this sort of stuff — providing the capacity for people to grow food in the public realm if you’d like to,” he said.
More Then Just Fresh Food, A Sense Of Community
According to the founders of this project, the real benefit to this whole thing was the genuine human connection that this project brought on. Encouraging people to come together for a common goal, get out of the house, and get to know the neighbours.
“Almost every afternoon, this street fills with the neighbourhood children. They ride bikes, they play ball. Adults will be sprawled on blankets across the lawn,” Ms. Kemp said.
“People now stop and talk or wave when they drive past. There’s a real sense of cohesion in this neighbourhood — people really do know each other,” Mr. McNaught said, waving to a passing neighbour.
“And none of these families desire a park because we’ve got one,” he added.
“There’s no additional cost, it’s just everyday living.”
“It’s spontaneity, just like the food.”
Is this something that you could try and put together in your neighbourhood? Just think of all the benefits it could have! Even just having your own garden can be a wonderful way to help the environment, cut costs, and provide healthy food for you and your family. Maybe you will inspire the rest of your neighbourhood to do the same. If you don’t have the space, you could even consider a community garden project. Get involved and take action!