The neighborhood that grows together literally put a healthy twist on street food. It all started with one food street in northeastern Queensland, Australia, and grew to cover a whole section of town. The price of locally grown, organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs is zilch. If it’s ripe, it’s available to every person in the neighborhood.
It’s an all-you-can-eat community garden conveniently located along the sidewalk, or footpath as they call them Down Under. Picturing a happenstance scattering of little postage stamp gardens? It’s a bit bigger than that. According to Australia’s ABC News, this neighborhood garden grown by the neighborhood for the neighborhood is massive, producing commercial quantities of fruits and vegetables.
At least it did… until the Sunrise Coast Council ordered it all ripped out a few weeks ago. Unlike most local authority mindsets that edible plants have no place growing in public spaces, here it’s even wonkier. Especially given the entire neighborhood was participating in the growing and reaping the benefits of the harvests. And the council thought it marvelous for years.
In The Beginning
Almost a decade ago two neighbors planted some lime trees in the nature strip along the sidewalk because the price of limes skyrocketed. So, they installed a free source open to everyone in the neighborhood. It wasn’t long before more food-bearing trees, bushes, and annual crops went in too. As it spilled over onto adjoining streets in the same Buderim precinct, more plantings appeared, more food sharing took place, and more neighbors got involved.
Street food growing drew estranged residents into a close community and put fresh, pesticide-free food in easy reach of hundreds of homes. By the end of the 2015 growing season, the food street gardeners produced huge quantities of all your veg patch goodies. We’re talking harvest data like 300 cabbages and 1 ton of bananas!
The Fate of Street Food Gardening
Why would growing food on the verge be perfectly okay for 9 years and suddenly destroyed? Quite likely outside pressure triggered by that TV news video below. The council members didn’t change, but in the span of less than a year, what was perfectly acceptable residential activity required a permit and liability insurance with an astronomical annual price tag per food street neighborhood household.
Who wouldn’t want an entire precinct producing enough fresh fruit and vegetables to supply their neighborhood? Political heavyweights whose interests aren’t being served and the sudden need for liability insurance sounds suspiciously like business or industry input. Needing insurance of any kind to eat homegrown fruits or veggies? Absurd.
Unfortunately, only the residents and like-minded people see how ridiculous that is. The once progressive council began chopping down and shredding fruit trees into mulch in May 2017, and removal continued into June. The required insurance wasn’t purchased, the new permits weren’t applied for. Furthermore, the city’s bill to homeowners whose trees they’ve removed $609 each for tree service.
Sow Forth and Grow On
The Urban Food Street Neighbourhood sees it as more of a small set back than as the end of their lovely community endeavor. This is from their Facebook page on June 27:
“They can cut down the trees, but they can’t kill the platform and we will continue to do what we’ve always done, grow beautiful spray free fruit and vegetables for people to pick, share and eat, on the suburban verge in the heart of sprawling suburbia.”
As long as it is well-maintained, it shouldn’t matter what kind of plants occupy the ground that borders a street or sidewalk. If the neighborhood wants to provide street food from open-source gardens, is it really anyone’s business who doesn’t live on that street?
ABC Feature (April 2016)
Images courtesy of The Urban Food Street Neighbourhood via Facebook.