Sewing the seeds
From little things big things grow. This is exactly how our urban agriculture initiative Sydney City Farm got its start. A few years ago a group of industrious Sydneysiders who wanted to grow their own produce in the inner city got together. They approached us with their concept for an urban farm.
Today, while their community farm work continues, this kernel has also evolved into a fully-fledged educational program that hopes to bring agricultural knowledge to the heart of Sydney.
Food production in the age of the city
The majority of the world’s population now lives in cities. We buy our fruit and vegetables in supermarkets. Aside from images of smiling farmers on our packaging, many people have little contact with produce before it hits our shelves.
Few people know how to tend soil, or what needs to happen for a seedling to turn into a fruit-bearing plant. And the more populated Sydney becomes, the less access to backyard and potentially farmable space residents will have.
But the interest in the process of food production hasn’t completely withered. In many Australian cities, there’s a growing demand for seasonal and organic fruit and vegetables. People are more and more aware of how long fresh food travels before it arrives in our homes. Many have a desire to support small producers.
Our very own city farm
Sydney City Farm is a patch of agricultural and horticultural land at Sydney Park. It aims to demonstrate the way crops are produced and what this means for sustainable, safe and importantly, affordable food production.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve been testing the idea with various education programs and more than 1,000 people have attended so far. Last year, we started a regular program of practical learning sessions on gardening and sustainability.
The next step is for interested volunteers to help us run the project by enriching the soil, propagating plants and preparing farm material at the newly-built City Farm. As the farm expands, we plan to set up composting and worm farm demonstrations, grow more seasonal produce, create an orchard and establish kids’ programs.
To complete the paddock-to-plate loop, we are also working on setting up a weekly farmers’ market. While we have no plans to keep large animals here permanently, we are considering housing chickens and bees in the future.
How you can volunteer
If you like to get your hands dirty, there will be one-off and weekly or fortnightly volunteering opportunities in early 2018. You can help with watering, weeding, plant care, plant propagation, potting and more.
Or if you’re more of a people-person and like to be outdoors, you can assist with educational events or at the future farmers’ market.
Finally, you’re welcome to simply come by just to wander around. In any case, you’ll meet like-minded locals, share know-how and get hands-on in creating a new community space.
What volunteering involves
We asked our long-time volunteer David Castro about his experience. David got involved with Sydney City Farm a few years ago after attending workshops on gardening in small spaces (we are still running these). Since then, he’s volunteered in community outreach programs in Zetland, has built furniture from reclaimed wood and helped City Farm educators in the classroom.
“City Farm is a great space that brings people together and offers important lessons that otherwise aren’t readily available,” says David. “It’s been a great experience meeting all the different people interested in learning how to be self-sufficient.”
How did you get involved as a volunteer?
I started volunteering because I wanted to learn more about the practices that would support urban agriculture.
What’s the best thing about volunteering with Sydney City Farm?
My favourite part has been using different skills in a productive manner in a friendly environment. It helps ground me from the busyness of work.
What would you advise others thinking about being involved?
Of course, join the Sydney City Farm volunteers! Beyond that, folks can help by making conscious decisions to support those who are trying to usher in new ways of being sustainable.
You can also support local businesses that provide sustainable products, attend talks, learn something new and share that knowledge with friends and family. Or you can write to elected and non-elected officials to let them know you want to see these types of changes in the community.
Why are green spaces important in Sydney?
Green spaces not only look nice, they provide food and clean air – and they bring us back to a natural state. I am convinced green spaces are the main street of the 21st century.
Check out the site and meet the team at our Sydney City Farm’s community hub and cropping area launch on 29 October.