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Local action – The CERES Urban Orchard Project

Posted in Models by Ferne Edwards on April 25th, 2007

By guest author, Brad Shone, coordinator of the Urban Orchard Project

The CERES Urban Orchard Project is a collection of folk from over 180 households across the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne who are interested in swapping and sharing the products of their backyard gardens. Initially with a focus on utilising unused fruit from the abundant plantings across Brunswick and Northcote, the project has spread to vegetables, herbs and beyond.

Increasingly, food provision is being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals or companies. This is occurring at the expense of not only the traditional growers but also consumers, as the use of industrial chemicals increases, food quality and nourishment deteriorates, social dislocation and alienation swells and the transport of food around the globe accelerates.

The Urban Orchard provides an alternative to this global trend by enabling people to take control over aspects of their food production and distribution. It provides an avenue by which individuals can make use of a valuable resource which exist in back yards right across Melbourne, reducing green-waste pressure on council landfills.

Additionally, by utilising locally-grown produce, the Urban Orchard lessens the need for the transportation of food vast distances across the country (or from overseas), reducing the reliance on environmentally dangerous fossil fuels.

Those with produce to swap gather every Saturday at the CERES Organic Market. A table is set up amongst the craft market stalls, where participants bring their excess produce to exchange with others in the project. Volunteers facilitate this process, as well as providing information and promoting the project to others. Participants meet to share fruit, vegetables, herbs, gardening tips, recipes and stories. Lemons are swapped for apricots, apples for tomatoes, basil for nectarines, and recipes for compost; all on a completely informal and friendly basis.

Any excess produce from the swaps is donated to a charity, passed on to the CERES Food Project, or, if deemed unsuitable, composted to provide the food for future crops.

As far as is known, the Urban Orchard is the only of its kind in Australia and potentially the world, and provides an innovative model of not only environmental sustainability, but social and economic sustainability, through promoting cost-effective backyard urban agriculture, and the building of links within the community and sharing of knowledge amongst participants and beyond.

For more information visit http://www.ceres.org.au/farm/organicfarm.htm