4.7 million Australian households are growing their own food

Our new Seed Manager was planting seeds as a child – that’s over 20 years of experience

52% of Australian households are growing some food

As a girl growing up on a farm in the Goulburn Valley, growing food was always an unquestioned part of life. It was as ever-present as the seasons.

I am young enough to remember planting Diggers seeds with my Dad as a child, and now as Diggers celebrates 40 years, I am fortunate to be a part of the heirloom story.

Foundational experiences, like planting seeds with my Dad, instilled a love of gardening. I now have the pleasure of sharing it with fellow gardeners, whether they are new to gardening, or many years my senior.

Gardeners like us grow vegies and fruit for a range of reasons, whether it be a way of life, for flavour, for health, or to save on the weekly grocery bill. Regardless of the motivation, we all share in the satisfaction of the harvest and it is this joy of the act itself that unites us. We actually belong in a much bigger cohort of the population than you and our political powers may think.

Research reveals that 52% of all Australian households are growing some of their food. In other words, 4.7 million households are gardening and growing some sustenance for their kitchens with their own hands.

The Australian Institute released research on backyard gardening in Australia in 2014. Grow your own: The potential value and impacts of residential and community food gardening undertaken by Poppy Wise.

It was pleasing to see just how prominent gardening, and especially food growing, still is in the community and the Australian psyche.

It is clear that Australians as a whole are more attuned to provenance and seasonality, and that they want a direct connection to their food, from ‘fork to fork’.

Gardeners are growing food for more than one motivation. The benefit to the environment from growing your own food was less of a motivation, compared to those of health, and the simple joy of gardening.

Research revealed the impact of gardeners is grossly underestimated. Gardeners reduce waste by harvesting directly from the vegie patch to meet the needs of the kitchen, as well as preserving and processing a glut (less waste, less packaging, longer supply), contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the industrial processes in supermarket agriculture and the food miles saved with no transportation or refrigeration.

Australians are living in more urban areas – where do we garden?

Urbanisation is no barrier. Gardeners new and old are becoming more creative. While house blocks decrease in size and more households are living in medium-to-high density areas, gardeners will always find a way to get their hands dirty.

Even renters, like me, are growing gardens with the support of empathetic landlords, or relishing other opportunities from container growing, to verges and community gardens. For the enthusiastic green thumb, opportunities exist to grow food outside the quintessential home owner’s suburban backyard. While the back or front yard is the usual site, gardeners are heading outside the norm to continue their passion.

Difficult to describe the typical gardener

I am sure you have friends or family that are often keen to get started but refer to the issue of ‘time’, and limited ‘space’, but researchers and gardeners alike know that these barriers to food gardening are often more perceived than real.

Food growing is on the increase

We probably think that every Australian backyard would have a vegie patch and a lemon tree, and it possibly did, before the decline. Modern living, with longer working days and smaller backyards lead to a decline, but thankfully, growing vegetables is once again on the increase.

The report shows that fortunately half of the Australian population are gardeners, with more hoping to join the homegrown produce ranks, and these Australians all wield some control over their own food. I doubt that our politicians know of the combined political might that is gardeners.

As he start of spring and seed sowing beckons, it is gardeners that hold the power to effect real change. The trowel will always be mightier than the pen!

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Jac Semmler

Jac Semmler is a passionate qualified horticulturalist and educator of gardeners young and old. Education lead and seed expert at the Diggers Club, her passion is to seek and trial the best quality heirloom and open-pollinated vegetable varieties.

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