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food security, Food, glorious food!

Urban backyard food production as a strategy for food security in Melbourne

My research was about urban food production within 70-km radius of Melbourne CBD. The data collection period ran from July 2012 to July 2013. This was deliberately designed to capture inter-seasonal yield. In all, 15 households took part in the research and each participant contributed 12 weeks’ worth of data.

The result was impressive. The collective plot size was 1,096 sq.m. with a total yield of 388.73 kg worth of fruits, vegetables, nuts, honey and meat. A total of 1,015 eggs were also recorded. The study found that backyard food production was capable of producing a great diversity of edibles from common kitchen garden herbs to less commonly cultivated fruits and vegetables, as well as less commercially available varieties like amaranth, apple cucumber, acorn squash, butter squash, babaco, cape gooseberry, edible canna, elderflower, gem squash, loganberry, nettle, oca, orache, purslane, rat-tailed radish, viola flower, warrigal green, white mulberry and yacon. In total, 101 different types of nuts, fruits, vegetables were generated during the study period.

Yield percentage of urban backyard fruit and vegetable production.

Yield percentage of urban backyard fruit and vegetable production.

Another notable feature was the diverse food growing technologies and practices employed by the participants. One exemplary backyard was established in 2008 using permaculture principle. Measuring 80 sq. m., this particular backyard featured more than 30 fruit trees in addition to over 70 varieties of medicinal plants and herbs. The total yield from this backyard over the 12-week period was 50.23 kg.

The type of produce was broadly segregated into 19 categories, see table below. “Beans” included a wide variety: broad bean, French bean, string bean, etc. Similarly “Citrus” covered grapefruit, lime, lemon, orange, etc.

Entomophagy, the practice of eating insects as a dietary supplement is widely practiced in parts of Asia and Africa, but it is not so common in the Western world. One participant raised tenebrious molitor as part of his backyard food production activity.

For those interested in reading the thesis, it can be found here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/11709895/Thesis%20-%20public.pdf

With its polyculture, diversity and varying practices, urban food production can contribute to community food security. This study has found that urban food production is a thriving activity within Melbourne metropolitan area, with productive outcomes.

Thank you once again to all the participants. The research would not have been possible without their participation and generosity.

Postscript: This post has caught the attention of many, which is fantastic! If you want to stay connected, please subscribe as I will writing about this issue on a regular basis now that I have completed my thesis.

Zainil :)

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About Urban permaculturist

I have an interest in sustainability; from food security to renewable energy. I am also a keen food gardener and vegetarian cook. For more information, check out my blog at: www.platelicking.wordpress.com/

Discussion

10 thoughts on “Urban backyard food production as a strategy for food security in Melbourne

  1. Very interesting. This year I’m testing what we can grow at home (Belgium) with 4 Square Foot Gardens and some indoor containers. Would love to learn more about the possibilities.

    Posted by Omnipleasant | February 17, 2014, 3:24 am
    • In my humble opinion, the possibility of urban backyard food production has not been fully explored in recent times. It is also my personal take that backyard production is one of many solutions to our current food system of large industrialised monoculture behemoth. Your climatic condition in Belgium will be very different from mild Melbourne, which is more mediterranean. If I could offer any advice, it would be to seek your local permaculture group. All 15 participants follow organic gardening and a large proportion are disciples of permaculture. The possibility is endless even with a 4 sq.ft. growing space. Good luck with your project and thank you for taking an interest in this critical issue.

      Posted by Urban permaculturist | February 17, 2014, 10:54 am
  2. I’m eager to learn, so I’ll look who can help me around here.

    Posted by Omnipleasant | February 18, 2014, 6:49 am
  3. This is very exciting to read. I shall check out your thesis.

    Posted by Paul - Permie (soon to be) from the Mallee | February 27, 2014, 6:16 pm
    • Thanks Paul. And all the best with your permaculture course. It is one of the best courses I have ever done. It changes the way I look at the world, the way I interact in the world, my outlook in general. It gives me hope and makes me more optimistic of our options and our collective future.

      Posted by Urban permaculturist | April 1, 2014, 10:32 am
  4. Thanks for picking up on my research paper.

    BY THE WAY, did you manage to sell your lovely property. I saw it in Earth Garden last year.

    Kind regards,

    Zainil

    Posted by Urban permaculturist | February 26, 2014, 2:43 pm

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