Gardening project builds community ties through food sharing and education

February 17 / 190

More than 70 residents from inner city housing estates, including newly-arrived migrants and refugees, are flexing their green thumbs to grow food plants to cater to their own needs and that of their communities.

With ties to 14 countries, including Vietnam, Ethiopia, Iraq and Iran, the participants have embarked on a series of horticultural training days to develop skills in growing food plants using facilities at the Burnley campus of the University of Melbourne. 

The plants were chosen for their cultural significance to the communities and suitability to Melbourne’s climate, including six varieties of sweet potatoes, three varieties of taro, yams, cassava, ginger, turmeric, Kang Kong (water spinach) and more.

Developed by Dr Chris Williams from the University of Melbourne’s School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences at Burnley, the program is run in partnership with the Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre (CNLC), Carlton Connect Initiative (CCI), the City of Yarra and FareShare, a community not-for-profit.

“This program is important because we live in a very diverse, multicultural society and often the foods we grow don’t represent this diversity. Developing food literacy around different foods, how they can be grown and used, is something we can all benefit from,” Dr Williams said.

Plants grown as part of the program will be donated to urban agriculture projects across Melbourne, with successful harvests returned as food to people living in the Yarra council area. 

An open community day was held in December to encourage engagement between the wider public and local residents to share personal stories, eat culturally diverse foods and buy ‘novel crop’ plants like sweet potatoes, thai basil, okra and taro, among others.

This project is supported by the Melbourne Engagement Grants. Applications for the 2017 round are now open and will close on 8 March. To find out how you can apply for a grant, click here. 

Story by Eisha Gupta

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