Story telling from Australia
“My name is Thorin Beowulf and I’m doing a masters on the motivation for engaging in urban agriculture. Would you like to participate in my research?”
With a name like Thorin Beowulf? Are you kidding?
Thorin arrived punctually at midday. Far from being the bearded God of Thunder I was expecting he looked a little peaky and slightly undernourished, like he could have done with a good feed. I offered him a slice of boiled fruitcake and he wolfed it down, admitting he hadn’t eaten since the day before.
He was from Canberra of all places, not some distant Scandinavian island of myth and legend, and his questions were simple and straightforward. What do you grow? Why do you grow it? What motivates you?
Being an ex-journalist I couldn’t help but ask a few questions of my own. Is there a growing interest in cultivating food in urban areas, I asked? Apparently European and South East Asian immigrants are most likely to want to grow their own food and other community gardens in Sydney are common, although most are gated and closely monitored. ‘You get allocated a plot of land and if you don’t maintain that plot it gets taken away from you and given to someone else on the waiting list,’ he said. That sounds a lot like the allotment system in England.
Mort Bay Community Garden is unusual in being open and accessible to everyone. That brings risks of course, and recently there’s been a spate of pilfering by people who don’t know how to cut or harvest plants, many of which simply aren’t ready.
I’m full of admiration for the volunteer organisers at Mort Bay who keep the garden operating and who are now trying to find a way of overcoming that pilfering.
According to Thorin, food security is a growing concern in developing nations but less so in developed countries like Australia. ‘People talk about self-provisioning but there aren’t that many actually doing something about it,’ he said. So hats off if you manage to grow your own food.
And my answer to why I (try) to do it?
I like knowing where my food comes from. I like nurturing seeds that can turn from tiny specks of grit into mouth-watering produce that hasn’t been blasted by chemicals, and I like getting my hands dirty.
Thorin still needs more people to interview, so if you’d like to take part in his research you can contact him here – firstname.lastname@example.org