My disconnection from the natural environment sometimes startles me. I can go for weeks without touching anything alive with my feet. I have no idea where most of my food comes from or how it is grown. I am much more concerned with having clean hands that getting my hands into some dirt.
The very fact that the word ‘dirty’ has a negative connotation is reason for question in itself. Is dirt really that bad? It is the stuff we break down into; where our food comes from; and which is responsible for so much goodness and life.
There is an abundance of evidence about the benefits of growing our own food: for example, that getting our hands dirty makes us happy and healthy; that growing our own food means we are more likely to eat healthily; that community gardens have both environmental and social benefits. Given the global trend of more people moving to high-density urban areas and away low density rural areas, is there a way to easily enable city-dwellers to get into the garden and grow some of their own food?
My guest for this week is Kate Dundas (@), who was struck by this question when asked to respond to a Vic Health tender enquiring about ways to improve supply and access to fresh food and vegetables for people in Victoria. Kate and her colleagues responded to this tender with a response focused on making it easier for people to grow their own food through straight-forward access to land, resources, and like-minded people.
Inspired by a similar project in Brooklyn, the exciting initiative 3000 Acres that was born out of winning this tender. 3000 Acres is now a stand-alone organisation helping Melbournians map the unused space in their city, find others who might be interested in jointly creating a garden, and making it easy for them to identify owners of land plots and draft leases with them. Kate estimates that in Melbourne there are thousands of hectares of available unused land, and hundreds of these sites have already been mapped on their website. With eight gardens now established around Melbourne, Kate talks about the respect show to these places by both those who tend them and others who make use of them.
One day Kate would like to disrupt the way we have designed work. Questions like, if we all didn’t work Monday-Friday, 9-5, if some kids had different times that they went to school than others, could we reduce much of the daily chaos and stress we have created for ourselves?
And interestingly for an urban planner, it is a lack of planning to which Kate’s ascribes the interesting path she has taken. Relying instead upon intuition and value-led decision making, she has been able to go along the moment without too much worry, and grab opportunities as they have been presented.
You can hear more of Kate on her weekly radio show Greening the Apocalypse on Triple R (which also has a podcast). I hope you enjoy our conversation.