More than 70 Carlton residents from 14 countries embarked on a series of horticultural training days to develop their food planting skills at the Burnley campus of the University of Melbourne.
Melbourne is reputed for its wide range of restaurants and cuisines but this diversity isn’t often reflected in the type of food crops that are cultivated across the city.
In a bid to improve this situation, Chris Williams from the School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences collaborated with more than 70 Carlton residents from 14 countries, some of whom were refugees and newly-arrived migrants, to plant food crops that were integral to their culture and suitable to Melbourne’s climate.
Sweet potatoes, taro, yams, cassava, ginger, turmeric, lotus and Kang Kong (water spinach) were just some of the plants that were grown, with successful harvests returned as food to residents in the Yarra council area.
The program was run in partnership with the Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre (CNLC), Carlton Connect Initiative (CCI), the City of Yarra and FareShare, a community not-for-profit.
For Williams an emphasis on food literacy reflects the multicultural nature of Melbourne.
This program is important because we live in a very diverse, multicultural society and often the foods we grow don’t represent this diversity. Developing food literacy around different foods, how they can be grown and used, is something we can all benefit from. Chris Williams
An open community day was held in December to encourage engagement between the wider public and local residents to share personal stories, eat culturally diverse foods and buy ‘novel crop’ plants like sweet potatoes, Thai basil, okra and taro, among others.