There is growing interest in local food production in the ACT and Region

Nearly 400 people are employed in the ACT in broadscale agriculture; that is 0.2% of people that are employed in the ACT. The gross value of agricultural production in the ACT was $34 million in 2019, growing from $21 million in 1990. It contributed 0.08% to the ACT’s overall gross state product.

It is difficult to estimate the number and productivity of Canberra’s private, school and community gardens. Preliminary analysis done by the ACT Government suggested that community gardens cover more than 60,000m2 land within the ACT. The ACT Region Community Gardens and School Gardens map[1], which has been produced by the University of Canberra, lists almost 100 gardens. The Canberra Organic Growers Society (COGS) operates 12 community gardens in the ACT.

High interest in joining the community gardens and grassroots support for the establishment of urban farms within Canberra demonstrate our residents’ interest in food production in urban settings. The popularity of farmers markets shows a demand for local product.

The ACT has a diverse multi-cultural community; there is unharnessed potential amongst the community’s cultures for diversification of food products that also facilitate connections across the community between cultural groups, age classes and vulnerable or marginalised societal groups. This applies equally strongly to native foods. To date there has been little attention to paid to consciously fostering the development of local native food enterprises in the ACT, another untapped opportunity.

Taken together, the ACT has the potential for significantly increase participation across its population and supply chains.

Food for thought

The ACT is a relatively small marketplace and may not be able to support a significantly higher number of commercial operations without conscious decisions by institutions and businesses to procure more local food.

We need to ensure production of healthy, affordable food that is accessible for everyone, and is not just high-end niche products. It would be easier for busy people to buy local produce from suburban shops in addition to markets. Clear branding of locally produced food and fibre would make purchase decisions easier.

Innovative ways are called for to encourage people to join the food production movement. We need to combat social isolation in the digital age, cultural and language barriers affecting people born overseas and second-generation migrants, and physical and social barriers to the inclusion of other-abled people.

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Thank you for having YourSay

There will more opportunities for you to have your say on the Draft Capital Food and Fibre Strategy.