The Australian Food Network
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Urban agriculture and healing

Dr Nick Rose, Executive Director

A Note from Executive Director, Dr Nick Rose

Last year was a shocker. This year, if we’re honest, hasn’t been a huge improvement. So far, the 2020s have been really tough on so many people, on so many levels. We empathise with everyone who’s lost a loved one; who’s been unwell, physically and / or mentally; whose business has been impacted or closed; who’s lost their job; who’s experienced, or continues to experience, food insecurity and financial stress; or who’s otherwise been affected by all that has happened since March 2020. This has been, and continues to be, a time of pain, division, suffering and polarisation across Australia, and globally.

We believe in a food system based on the ethics of care and stewardship. We believe in universal human rights, and especially the right to good and healthy food for all, regardless of any person’s distinguishing characteristics. 

We believe that now there is a need for healing, connection, and re-building social bonds of friendship, care and affection. And we believe that the practice of gardening, especially when done communally, has enormous power to bring peace and healing at this time.

Our work has always had a strong focus on urban agriculture, however that has intensified in the last two years. From the Pandemic Gardening Survey in 2020, to the 3rd national Urban Agriculture Forum and the inaugural Urban Agriculture Month in April 2021, to the co-design and launch of the Oakhill Food Justice Farm in September 2021, and most recently to the state-wide surveying of the sector at the end of the year on behalf of Agriculture Victoria, edible gardening and urban agriculture have become our guiding compass. And we embrace that, because places like Oakhill Food Justice Farm represent glimpses into a happier, healthier and more harmonious future. 

The act and practice of growing food is a form of mindfulness. If we attend to the plants, and the soil, and their needs, we can lose the egoic form of ourselves and connect with the source of our life. With the source of all life. With what is magical, and sacred. In our care and attentiveness, we can slow down, and be more caring of ourselves, and of others. We can recognise, appreciate, and absorb, the stillness, the movement, and the beauty of the garden’s gentle rhythms and cycles. The garden can be, as one of our respondents said last year, ‘a balm for our soul’. Every time we step into it. 

So as this most challenging year ends, we celebrate the millions of people across Australia, and the billions globally, who engage in the simple yet profound practice of growing some of their own food. Whatever 2022 and the years following may hold in store, we are committed to our path of doing all in our power, through our networks and collaborations, to make Australia’s towns and cities edible.