Last year I was fortunate to be one of around 100 people in Australia awarded a Churchill Fellowship. These Fellowships have been awarded to about 3,500 Australians since 1965, to support them for a period of some week's overseas travel, in order to learn about significant innovations in diverse spheres of social life and bring back lessons that may be of wider benefit to the Australian community.
My research trip is to investigate innovative models of urban agriculture in a variety of sites in the United States (Chicago, Milwaukee and Detroit), as well as Toronto and a number of centres in Argentina, to return with any lessons that may be of value in strengthening and expanding the nascent urban agriculture movement in Australia. My decision to apply for a Churchill Fellowship followed on from case study research I was involved in with Griffith University (see the Burton pdf attached) in 2012, exploring the scale and nature of urban agriculture in Melbourne.
I also have a strong personal commitment to working for fair and sustainable food systems in general, having been centrally involved in the People’s Food Plan process as the National Coordinator of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance. The Churchill Fellowship coincides with a new post I began in September last year, to coordinate the establishment of a Food Systems Network (Victoria / National), with the Food Alliance .This has developed into a project to establish an Urban and Regional Food Network, with a key focus being the creation of an Urban Food Charter.
I am hopeful that the lessons I can bring back from the travel can enhance the momentum and enthusiasm we’re already creating with the Urban and Regional Food Charter project, which I see in many respects as a continuation of the work begun in 2012 and 2013 with the People's Food Plan. In visiting the various organisations and projects, my aim is to engage in open and wide-ranging discussions, including broader issues of socio-economic context and structural disadvantage. I am particularly interested in two questions:
- What is the potential of urban agriculture to make a substantive contribution to food security and food sovereignty of the families, communities and individuals involved and / or supported by these organisations and their projects?
- What is the potential of urban agriculture to be a source of community development, in terms of generating employment and additional income for hard-pressed family budgets, and helping to establish self-sustaining local and regional food economies?
I am very excited to be departing on this trip and equally excited to share the knowledge and experience I gain with as many people as possible on my return.
I will be blogging regularly about my trip.
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