Grow Your Own in Melbourne

From March to May 2008, the VEIL research team were joined by Dorottya Hujber from Budapest, Hungary. Dorottya was visiting VEIL to complete her Masters thesis on “The Barriers and Challenges of ‘Grow Your Own’ Food Schemes” in Melbourne.”

Dorottya was a student at the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy of Central European University and was completing her studies at VEIL as part fulfilment of her Master of Science degree through the MESPOM program in Europe.

The abstract of the thesis is:

In the present thesis two urban agricultural practices are analyzed in Melbourne, Australia, namely backyard and community gardening production. The latter is managed by community members usually on fenced public land. In both schemes food production for people’s own consumption takes place, including vegetables, fruits and animals.

The aim of the study is to give a general overview on why people are growing food in an urbanized area like Melbourne today and what barriers and challenges the growers face. Multiple stakeholder analysis is carried out giving opportunities for residents, governmental officials, academics, non-governmental organizations and associations to share their experiences and views. The thesis uses qualitative research methods.

The study presents that there are various reasons for growing food but the main motivation of growers is enjoyment of the fresh, tasty produce. Health, environmental and community involvement considerations come after that and these three have equal importance. Economic motivations and food security reasons are not that relevant. However, officials believe that the schemes are driven mainly by environmental considerations. Backyard and community gardeners have to overcome financial, legal and societal barriers. Lack of space, water, finances and supportive policies are the major drawbacks.

Both schemes are beneficial for the individual as well as the whole community. Therefore supportive actions should be taken by local authorities, governmental bodies and non-governmental organizations. Growing your own food fosters urban sustainability and has a great potential in reducing negative effects of the current food system, such as food miles, ecological footprint, health implications and societal inequities.