There are actually tons of spaces around Marrickville LGA where vegetables could be grown. The space doesn’t even need to be big for it to be productive & add beauty to the streetscape.

I found a wonderful TED video of a talk by Pam Warhurst from Todmorden England.  Ms Warhurst & a group of friends decided to start a social movement, which they called, ‘Incredible Edible’ & do this bypassing bureaucracy, which they felt would hold them back.  The plan was to grow food locally by planting on unused land throughout the community – so they just did it.

The group asked themselves, “can you find a unifying language that cuts across, age, income & culture that will help people themselves find a new way of living, see spaces around them differently, think about the resources around them differently, interact differently? Can we find that language & then can we replicate those actions?  The answer would appear to be yes & the language would appear to be food.”

There was no consulting & no submission writing. They simply organised a community meeting & from this ‘Incredible Edible’ was born. And they “did it all without a flipping strategy document, no permission & not waiting for a cheque to start. None of this demands bureaucracy or takes more money.”

Their motto is  – “If You Eat – You’re In.”  You can’t get more inclusive than this.

The movement went well beyond verge gardening outside your own property.  They approached businesses & local services asking to be able to garden their land that was often planted with useless & often prickly plants. The businesses said yes & so the people moved in, removed existing plants or weeds & planted the area with food.  They made it look good by bringing in artistic people (not just artists) to design the area so that the streetscapes looked better.

“Food is popping up all over the place.  They call it ‘Propaganda Gardening.’  Vegetables are planted in people’s front gardens, in the corner of a car park & in front of the Police Station & in the cemetery.  People are visiting from all over the world to look.”

More people became involved so they involved all the local schools. They set up a Board of Management & allowed children to be decision-makers on the Board.  They set up a market garden training centre.  The local university/TAFE took it further by designing a local horticulture course.  Suddenly, this movement was helping people to get training & jobs.

“People want positive actions they can take. They want more kindness towards each other & the environment.”  She used terms like, “educate & inspire……sharing…..investing in kindness……increasing public spiritedness.”

The people designed the ‘Incredible Edible Route’ to take tourists through the town to all the verge gardens.  They took it a step further & connected the route with all the local food producers & promoted their products.

Locals started buying local & making new local products.  64 local products are now on the ‘Incredible Edible Route’ & 49% of local producers said their profit had increased as a result of this movement.  That’s 49% more business than before, all from gardening the verges & other wasted spaces.

The ‘Incredible Edible’ movement is spreading with more than 30 towns in England doing their own verge gardening & cities like Christchurch in New Zealand coming to learn how they can start this as part of their rebuild post-earthquakes.

I find this incredibly inspiring & think it would be quite easy to do in Marrickville LGA.  People are already verge gardening.  Wilga Avenue in Dulwich Hill has most of the street involved & received a major award for it.  Community gardens are popping up here & there & quite a few people do spontaneous guerilla gardening to try & improve their immediate streetscape.

We can’t wait for Marrickville Council to do it, nor is it in our best interest to let the vandals & thieves make it so we are left living in ugliness; not when propagating is so cheap & easy.  We can all benefit from sharing plants, energy & knowledge & we will certainly benefit from better-looking, greener streetscapes.

I know of one woman in her late 60s who is a guerilla gardener. She has created two beautiful spaces on public land & the whole community benefits.  Visit her & she will offer food freshly picked in front of you or eggs still warm from her hen house.

Spare land should be used for community gardens. I am not the only one frustrated at looking at all the Railcorp land that just sits there to be slashed or mown once a year.  These areas could be transformed into community gardens or orchards.  Nothing ever happens on them anyway.  If in a decade’s time Railcorp does want the land to use for something, then we would just have to move on.  Railcorp would benefit hugely with the positive publicity from allowing the community to use certain spaces & train travelers would have something great to look at instead of the desolation that they see out the window.

Edible landscapes could be in all sorts of places, big or small.  Gardeners could rove between sites or stay with the one that most interests them.  Food should be shared with anyone who wants it.  It’s working at the verge gardens of Chippendale. Sometimes someone comes & takes everything, but on the whole, produce is shared.

Ms Warhurst says, edible landscapes are about “building a different & kinder future.”  I believe this.  I also want this.

You can watch this inspiring talk here – http://www.ted.com/talks/pam_warhurst_how_we_can_eat_our_landscapes.html

This area off Illawarra Road Marrickville is a great example of public land that is wasted. No-one uses it & Council mows the grass when needed. It could easily be transformed into a vegetable garden. Small suitable plants could also be grown at the side of the pathway as well. There are many places like this across the municipality just waiting to be transformed into something lovely & useful.

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