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The Pandemic Gardening Survey Report

We are making this research publication available free of charge for the benefit of the Australian community and policy makers. If you value and support our work, we invite you to consider making a donation and / or becoming a member of Sustain.

This dataset covers 62% of all Australian postcodes. Local governments and other stakeholders who may be interested in detailed local, regional or state-level data and analysis are invited to contact us to discuss tailored packages.

Every Seed I Plant is a Wish for Tomorrow: Findings and Action Agenda from the 2020 Pandemic Gardening Survey

In this report, we lay out an action agenda to create more edible towns and cities in Australia. Based on findings from the first-ever national Pandemic Gardening Survey, the report reflects the voices of over 9,000 gardeners from urban, regional and remote communities across Australia who shared how edible gardening is good for the mind, body and soul.

Edible gardening has immense power to do good. The survey findings reveal it was particularly important to low-income households and those living with mental illness and chronic conditions. As a gardener from regional Victoria shared, “I suffer from PTSD resulting from my firefighting career, so gardening has become a balm for my soul.” A Canberra gardener living with cancer explained that “my garden keeps me alive, especially on the bad days.”

Nearly 20% of respondents said they could not have made it through the pandemic without their garden. Another 62% said the garden meant a great deal to them during the pandemic. Along with their substantial mental health benefits, edible gardens have the power to create greener cities, reduce household waste, strengthen community connectedness, enhance food security and encourage fresh produce consumption.

“There are very few initiatives that fall within the remit of local and state governments that so powerfully support so many aspects of wellbeing at once,” said Dr Kelly Donati, founding Chairperson of Sustain and lecturer in food studies at William Angliss Institute.

Despite its documented benefits for ecological, mental and physical wellbeing, edible gardening currently receives limited government support.

“The estimated costs of dietary-related ill health and mental illness in Australia are a staggering $200 billion every year. With COVID-19 and the climate emergency, we need more innovative policy strategies for mitigating these costs,” noted Dr Nick Rose, Executive Director of Sustain.

Sustain is calling for the establishment of a $500 million national Edible Gardening Fund to be co-financed by federal and state/territory governments to drive a mass expansion of urban food production across Australia. “For a tiny fraction of our current annual health expenditure, the return on investment would be enormous,” said Dr Rose.

This bold call builds on the views of many survey respondents, including this health care practitioner from NSW Central Coast: “I fully endorse edible gardening as an intervention that would improve public and climate health. I would view any government support—federal, state or local—a very good and wise use of my taxes and rates.”

“Respondents said they want councils to remove roadblocks and unlock vacant land,” added Dr Rose. “They want food gardens on verges and in every new development, and community gardens in every suburb. This needs to be networked, coordinated and supported at every level with policy commitments and targets. Now is the time for action.”

Download the report and infographics:

Full report

Key Messages

Action Agenda

This report was funded by the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation.

For enquiries, contact Sustain Executive Director Dr. Nick Rose at [email protected] or Sustain Chair Dr. Kelly Donati at [email protected]