Urban agriculture catalyst – balancing economy, community and ecology


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Urban agriculture catalyst – balancing economy, community and ecology

Urban agriculture catalyst is a subject that is drawing much attention globally. How do we work with it to get more from less whilst aiding food security, reducing CO2 from food production, developing a stronger food culture, building more resilient cities, aiding ecology and biodiversity and creating new economic pathways?

All big picture questions where the urban agriculture catalyst can and is making great contributions. It’s early days in realising the full potential and more importantly understanding the methods that can really make it scale. Our new business, Bite the Land, explained below, is aimed at creating the conditions for this catalyst to thrive on large scale projects.

This subject has been close to my heart for many years now. Sounds a bit trite, but it all started in my backyard veggie patch in Melbourne, 50 years ago. It was firstly the taste of the home grown organic food that got me. As I became an adult, had a family and kept expanding my organic food growing, I began to realise the wider food system was not only missing something, but also very destructive in the way it worked. I wanted to be involved in the solution.

Seems little strange when I reflect on it now. How could one small scale organic grower make a contribution to such a megalithic food system? Indeed, could the corporate agribusiness forces that thrive on making profit at any cost become very protective of their turf and want to hold back this emerging urban food growing movement.

The good news is that I have not been the only person with such an idea about making a difference. The local food movement is expanding in leaps and bounds around the world.

Our business in urban agriculture, My Food Garden, started on 2006 and has educated and consulted with thousands of food gardeners and urban farmers in supporting their desire to make a difference in the food system.

The big end of town beckoned us during this time and our business also began to work with very large property developers wanting to integrate urban agriculture into their sustainable living picture for new residents. Local and state governments have also become clients as they are curious about the potential of urban agriculture.

During this part of our journey, the urban agriculture catalyst idea began to emerge as I could see that success in larger scale urban agriculture projects really needed some key ingredients to work synergistically. These were:

1. Efficiency and earth care – Technical skills of bio-intensive organic urban farming using the most innovative methods of soil, plant and land management – in other words highly efficient organic food production that also cares for the earth

2. Social enterprise development – Strong focus on profitable business management where multiple ventures connected to the urban farming value add production and are just as focused on social and environmental outcomes as they are on economics.

3. Collaboration – Using the skills of collaboration to draw resources together from multiple stakeholders, thus leveraging resources from many sources to create more value for everyone involved and limiting start up capital of the founding enterprise compared to conventional enterprise development

Quite a diverse mix of skills is needed to achieve the urban agriculture catalyst with those 3 ingredients. This has lead us to develop a new business over the last six months which is specifically focused on larger scale urban agriculture projects. The business is called Bite the Land and has 3 partner directors:

  • Peter Kearney – urban agriculture development and education
  • Russell Workman – social enterprise development and management
  • Jelenko Dragisic – enterprise collaboration, funding and green cities

My Food Garden will continue to focus on educational workshops and consulting to individuals, whilst Bite the Land is focused on large urban agriculture project planning, design and implementation support with clients being: government, property developers and land/building owners.

Authored by: Peter Kearney – My Food Garden

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