Grow it Local has sprouted up like alfalfa from Sydney to WA, providing an online forum for urban farmers planting just about anything in any space available
Grow It Local is one year young and fast growing. How did the movement come about?
Grow It Local was founded by the same guys - Andrew Valder and Darryl Nichols - that started the Garage Sale Trail, promoting the on-selling of unwanted goods to provide for a more sustainable community. It started with Waverley Council and in the last three years it has become a huge national event so of course we think, 'If we can do that type of thing for waste what can we do for food?' So we used it as our model and then Waverley Council backed the project in a pilot phase. If it works and we make the cut then we can blow it out across Australia. Already we’ve got more than 100 registrations across the country.
What is the idea driving Grow It Local?
The concept of Grow It Local is to make it easier for people to share information, because sometimes, regardless of how much you read about how to do something, it doesn’t really make sense until you have someone show you how to do it.
I also wanted to make the idea of growing food a little more accessible to younger people because it can seem like something that your grandma does.
You recently hosted a dinner featuring produce from 30 urban farmers from Grow It Local at Three Blue Ducks. How did you go about selecting the produce for the feast?
We chose 30 gardens that had registered and had a name, a full description and pictures of what they’re growing and they also had to have contributed to the conversation online. It’s about using that online platform to encourage real live interactions as well, ‘cos if you look at the map that shows you where the gardens are then you realize that on your street there are four other people who are really into gardening. We want people to think, ‘oh we’ll all go along, meet each other face to face’ and then that builds the community and improves everyone’s gardening.
Did the chefs know what they were preparing for dinner?
It’s pretty wild because those guys had absolutely no idea what they were making, they didn’t know what people were growing; we had no idea. They had to get really creative. The 30 who were invited came, dropped off their produce at the Bondi Farmer’s Market and we did a few workshops and then we took everything that we got from the market to the restaurant and the guys had to look at it and go ‘ok, let’s see what we can do with this.’ They had no idea what they were gonna get.
How long have you been growing your own food?
Our family has been growing since I can remember. When your parents do something it’s kind of hard to escape. We grew lots of plants really, mostly herbs. They were wholesalers in the Mornington Peninsula. When I was a kid we had chickens. I didn’t realise that we were actually eating the chickens until I think I was about nine or ten, they were always black, they were always six and they had the same name for about ten years, me and my brother had no idea.
So what is it that attracted you to urban gardening?
The permaculture principle sums it up: getting maximum output for minimum input. In permaculture you generally tend to mimic the way nature works - the plants complement each other. I really like it because it goes with the notion of really lazy gardening. Costa [Georgiadis, host of Gardening Australia] has this incredible chicken tracker. He’s got three chickens in a coop on wheels that he wheels out to the nature strip or the land that he wants to cultivate and leaves them there for the day. They basically dig up all the soil, all the weeds, all the bugs and eat them and then you move them away and you have this perfectly cultivated, pooed on, fertilised land that you can go and plant. It’s really about being creative around gardening and food production.