13 September 2023

Community gardens, home-grown goods focus of new draft food strategy

| Claire Sams
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Rebecca Vassarotti

Minister for the Environment Rebecca Vassarotti says a new draft strategy is aimed at increasing Canberra’s food intake and supporting those who make it. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Canberrans have been urged to support producers, farmers and growers across the Territory by eating more local food.

Minister for the Environment Rebecca Vassarotti said release of the Draft Canberra Region Local Food Strategy followed extensive community consultation.

“This has come at the end of a great community conversation about how we can see more local food production,” she said.

“We see this as part of a vision of a Canberra that’s happier, healthier and more climate resilient.

“We’re really keen to see this strategy increase local food production.

“We want to see this strategy encourage more people to eat local foods and ensure our local food production is sustainable and climate resilient.”

The draft strategy is centred on four main goals: increasing local food production and consumption, increasing access to healthy food, increased economic and social outcomes, and sustainable food production.

Ms Vassarotti said the strategy’s final version was designed to support current and future producers, farmers and growers in the Territory.

“We want to look at how we can cleverly use land we already have to support local food production,” she said.

“We want to encourage households and communities to get more involved in local food production through projects such as community gardens and even just building their skills and confidence about growing things.”

READ ALSO Meet the Growers: Fiona Buining shares her vision for urban farming in Canberra

Ms Vassarotti said the strategy was intended as a document to guide planning and action for the Territory’s food system.

“We’re looking for some really practical actions out of this,” she said.

“We want to support our local food producers – we have a thriving local food production sector, we’ve got local food producers creating great produce.”

Ms Vassarotti said the strategy would assist planning by examining the current landscape and identifying future opportunities.

“One of the challenges with our local food production is we actually need more information about how much yield we are getting and how much food is being produced locally,” she said.

“That’s going to be one of the first actions of the strategy, to do some of that mapping.

“While we know about 15 per cent of our local land is being used for agricultural purposes, we actually need to know more about what that is producing and what we can do to support our local food producers.”

Ms Vassarotti said a key focus was increasing consumption of food and other goods from the Territory’s producers.

“What we can do through really good urban and rural farm production is increase our reliance on our local industries, rather than things coming interstate or from some of the big supermarkets,” she said.

“This is really about looking around at the things we can produce here locally … [and] support people doing that on a commercial basis.”

READ ALSO How do you know how ‘local’ your food really is?

The draft strategy covers urban and rural agricultural production, with sections for commercial producers and laypeople interested in the field.

“We know that as the city is densifying, there will be more interest in things such as community gardens,” Ms Vassarotti said.

“While some of the most clever producers can do great things on balconies, we know there are people interested in connecting with others through community gardens.”

Ms Vassarotti said further information would be available in coming months.

“As we finalise the strategy, there will be specific announcements that will need funding support and we’ll be working to make that happen,” she said.

Consultation on the Draft Canberra Region Local Food Strategy is open until 20 October 2023.

The public can give feedback through the online portal or register for an in-person session on 12 October via Eventbrite.

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