Edible gardens could feed our growing city

An Edible Landscape Garden has scooped a local film prize for its re-imagination of food, farming and community. It’s time to dig up the dirt on this not-so secret garden.

EdibleScapes’ short film won at the Good Coast Film Festival, which celebrated stories of Gold Coast change-makers in November. Word is spreading about the garden but you’d be forgiven for not having heard of it yet; it’s a small but brilliant project that’s been germinating out the back of Nerang for a couple of years.

The seed of the idea was to create an edible garden “based on the communal food forest garden adapted to an urban space”, project founder Jorge Cantellano explains. His Edible Landscape Garden tests the viability of urban and peri-urban food production on the Gold Coast. It’s a learning and demonstration site open to anyone interested in growing food within our city.

“I observed how other cities around the world have shown concern for the global agriculture and water crisis” Jorge says. They are reducing dependence on large industrial farms and increasing resilience using localised food production strategies. “We want to demonstrate that it is possible” Jorge says.

The garden rests on a sweeping, sun drenched hillside at Country Paradise Parklands. Edible fruit trees grow alongside medicinal and gourmet herbs, while butterflies and native bees are at home in the thriving eco-system. At the time of the second consecutive summer harvest, the garden already boasts varieties of squash, green bush beans, chard and kale.

Jorge’s background in visual modelling design has evolved into designing gardens for social impact and he’s now a perennial student of the soil. With extensive research made into agro-ecology (put another way, farming as nature intended), he applies technologies that have been successful in sustainable farming traditions. The garden uses no pesticides nor chemical fertilisers. Instead they produce their own solid and liquid bio-fertilisers using two methods, bokashi composting and airtight anaerobic fermentation. The natural fertilisers are then tested on rotating crops. “We are developing a system that operates with a minimal budget, free from public grants or commercial dependence.”

Community partners are integral to the project. Nerang Farmers Market, Landies Fruit World and other Country Paradise tenants provide greens and waste for the compost systems, while Cadence Café and Nikki & Azza’s Barbershop donate coffee grounds and hair (rich in slow-release proteins). Any excess seasonal fruit and vegetables are distributed to local food relief agencies in Nerang like Foodbank.

Sole reliance on corporate farms isn’t environmentally sustainable now, and it won’t be as our population exceeds one million in the next 25 years. Not only is industrial-scale farming responsible for soil depletion, pollution and biodiversity loss, but our unstable climate will continue to cause crop yields to suffer and food prices to rise. With almost 70 percent of the world’s population expected to live in urban centres by 2050, urban food production has to ramp up. Today, 206 cities have adopted an international protocol called the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, which recognises the need to increase capacity to grow food. Gold Coast is not short of public verges, parks, sports fields and gardens that could be turned into multifunctional spaces where we could do the same.

Imagine what would take root if a cross-section of society had access public spaces to learn to grow food; a city abundant with edible street trees, sidewalk veggie patches and anonymous landscapes transformed into pockets of food forests; inclusive spaces where people can harvest knowledge as well as wholesome produce; families sustained by eating their gardens and purchasing produce from local small-scale farms.

It’s a fresh and fearless vision of a food secure Gold Coast that EdibleScapes is laying the groundwork for.

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EdibleScapes operates as a non-profit social and ecological service. They seek volunteers on both a casual and permanent basis willing to help with gardening, composting, community engagement and other tasks. Join them at 8.30am on the second Saturday of every month for their Working Bee. Visit ediblescapes.org for more.

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