City Growers

Break out the shovel. It’s time to get planting, and you don’t even need to leave the city limits. By Lisa Smyth

Those of us who dwell in the city are used to our fruit and veg being shiny, pristine and often packaged in plastic on a supermarket shelf. However, if you want to get your hands dirty digging up fresh heirloom tomatoes you don’t have to drive hours outside the city – all across Melbourne vacant lots, empty rooftops and even old bowling greens are being used for sustainable and ethical urban farming projects.

1 Garden Variety

The CERES Community Food System is a collection of farms, food projects and produce swaps that connects people throughout the city. The two certified organic market gardens, Honey Lane and Merri Creek, anchor the system and are maintained by a resident farmer and large groups of enthusiastic volunteers. There is also the opportunity to learn beekeeping, take care of chickens or help in the seedling nursery.

2 Buzz Worthy

The collapse of honeybee colonies around the world spurred Mat Lumalasi and Vanessa Kwiatkowski to launch their innovative Rooftop Honey project in 2010. “We wanted to raise awareness about the plight of bees and their importance, and increase the connection people have with their food,” explains Mat. The project has more than 150 hives on the roofs and balconies of cafes, restaurants and hotels around Melbourne, reducing the distance from production to your morning chia porridge to just a few metres. Each hive is fitted with a small device that acts as a GPS locator and takes measurements of the hive and its bees, so you can even purchase your honey by street location.

3 Community Fresh

If you are committed to going organic there is no better way than growing your own fresh produce. Veg Out in St Kilda is a completely chemical-free community garden run by local volunteers. In addition to the 140 garden plots, rabbits, chickens and quails call this former bowling green home. There is a waiting list for plots, but preference is given to those who help out at Sunday working bees.

4 Grape Resolve

Located in Brunswick East, Noisy Ritual is Melbourne's first urban winery. In 2014, one of the owners found a concrete wine fermenter under his house and decided it would be fun to invite some mates around to stomp some grapes. A community was born, and now an annual membership will give you access to winemaking workshops, barrel tastings, and six bottles of the good stuff made by you. Memberships for 2019 are now available.

5 Share the Goodness

“Pumpkin, zucchini, eggplant and broccoli are all on the go at the moment,” says Sharni Jansen, garden program manager for FareShare. “We rotate a summer crop and winter crop across our three kitchen gardens at Abbotsford, Moorabbin Airport and Clayton South.” In order to supplement the donations of surplus food from growers and supermarkets, FareShare launched its kitchen garden program three years ago. The produce is used to cook nutritious meals for those in need. “We cook 5,000 free meals a day from our charity kitchen in Abbotsford and our volunteer programs are very popular,” notes Sharni. Sign up now.