New initiative 3000 Acres aims to create public green spaces in the city
Deep down, we are all biophiliacs, hardwired to connect to our natural environment. 3000 Acres co-founders Chris Renkin and Kate Dundas believe we’ve lost that connection; forgotten where food actually comes from. Everything we consume is so instantly available, so pre-packaged, so over-processed. It can be hard in the city to nurture that connection, let alone develop a green thumb.
That’s where 3000 Acres comes in. It provides a plan to reconnect via local land resources and rethink our relationship with food. It matches people up with vacant lots of land that can service the community as a whole. According to Kate, it is not just about legitimising the appropriation of public land resources, it’s also about normalising the process. She passionately rejects the idea that you can’t connect with nature in an urban city context and eagerly anticipates the day that Melburnians can wander through neighbourhoods green with community-run gardens.
“In Europe, they have harvest festivals and street markets,” she says.
Their first community-run garden launched in Fitzroy on February 15th. Melbourne developer Neometro donated the land, which has been divided into 12 plots for local residents and businesses. This first site has been designed, built and managed by 3000acres, with support from University of Melbourne horticulture students. It’s a sweet-smelling oasis of tender basil and lemon thyme in an empty carpark behind Smith Street – established proof of the actionable steps that can be taken by ordinary people.
“Our website’s like a dating website,” Kate jokes. “The networking potential is huge. Because it’s open source, anyone can pin up sites for potential use or find people to connect with.”
3000 Acres provides a practical toolkit for community use offering best practice guidelines and takes the legal panhandling out of getting access to land. Initially, all digitally-pinned land is loosely categorised as potentially good, unsuitable and unknown.
“We start off with the idea that anything is possible anywhere,” Chris explains. “Then take it forward as productively as possible. We want to educate people about city government and ways to participate in decisions that shape neighbourhoods.”
Their education efforts have won support from the Royal Botanic Gardens, the University of Melbourne, the Victorian Eco Innovation Lab and two local councils. The plan to redefine how we make use of underutilised land is also backed by VicHealth.
“The idea is to get everyone working together,” Kate says. “The dream is to have food growing on the streets and on the rooftops around the inner city – to bring it back into the public realm, our consciousness and our normality.”