Grow food not lawns with the fertile world of foodscaping

Written by Nina Tovey | 10 November, 2014

green leafy vegetables growing with cafe and people eating and sitting

Forget landscaping. Learn everything there is to know about foodscaping - the new obsession to hit the gardening world.

Forget landscaping – foodscaping is the new obsession to hit the gardening world. It describes the movement towards edible landscaping – using all or the major areas of a lawn to grow food. Picture grass and shrubbery replaced with berry bushes, and a range of edible foods integrated into the landscape in a functional and beautiful way.

Households, businesses and public spaces around the world are embracing foodscaping as a sustainable way to incorporate edible plants into their environments to add interest, colour, texture, taste – and lets not forget the potential cost savings that can come with growing your own food.

A survey released in March by The Australia Institute showed 52 per cent of Australian households grow their own food and 91 per cent agree that it saves them money.

Architecture and Design Lecturer for the Writtle School of Design (UK) and passionate foodscaping advocate Joshua Zeunert believed it was ironic many industrialised and developing nations still destroy traditional food-producing landscapes in order to ‘landscape’ them.

“The ‘lawn’ in Australia remains an institution – yet it is so alien to a largely arid country when you look at things subjectively. Although Australians are making good progress, the nation as a whole largely has a taste for landscapes that are ornamental and picturesque.”

Joshua said it made no sense to pour finite energy sources into ornamental and unproductive landscapes.

“Embracing foodscaping on a mainstream level would diversify our food systems and increase the amount of food produced and consumed locally. It is also an effective way to address issues such as global overpopulation and the need to feed immensely increasing numbers of people in a world with decreasing finite energy sources and an unstable climate.”

Joshua pointed to Mediterranean countries as an example of communities with an intrinsic connection to food.

“I recently cycled through northern Italy and not only did I see agricultural production everywhere I looked, many trees and shrubs on public land were edible species. Instead of treating food as an economic commodity to be traded, these cultures see food as the hub of life and family.”

An unstable global economy and reduced faith in the global food system is seeing a greater community participation in urban agricultural initiatives such as foodscaping.

“We’ve watched the exponential rise of the organic industry and a greater interest in the local food movement. Eating healthily is no longer marginal in Australia and people are taking more interest as they realise what they eat and drink accounts for a significant amount of their ecological footprint,” said Joshua.

When considering what foodscaping can achieve when brought to life on a grand scale, you need look no further than the Eden Project in Cornwall, England. A 15-hectare sustainability and plant project attracting more than a million visitors a year, it features a food garden adjoining to the popular café where fresh edible produce has been incorporated into the landscape and makes the link to dining guests between growing and eating.

Closer to home, Annemarie and Graham Brookman transformed 15 hectares of land in Gawler, Adelaide into a permaculture treasure ground called The Food Forest. Growing 160 varieties of organically certified fruit and nuts, wheat and vegetables, free range eggs, honey, carob beans and Australian native foods, the pair educate visitors on how an ordinary family with a typical income can grow its food and create a productive and diverse landscape.

The Food Forest spreads its message through conducting tours and regular open days on its property, running permaculture design courses and offering a consultancy service for the planning of sustainable properties or lifestyles.

The health benefits that come with growing your own food are undisputed, with Professor Tim Lang from the Centre for Food Policy at City University London declaring gardening and community food growing as particularly beneficial for the large number of children and adults who live with challenging mental health problems.

These benefits were explored in the 2014 study ‘The benefits of gardening and food growing for health and wellbeing’ by Garden Organic and Sustain.

“Gardening and community food grow deserves the attention of health professionals, spatial planners and other policy makers who are well placed to make it possible for people to participate in beneficial horticultural activities,” said Tim.

“Green space and food growing spaces need to be created and protected in the environments where we live to make it easy for people to participate in gardening, allotments, community food growing and horticultural therapy.

Meanwhile, action already piloted by GPs and health authorities to ‘prescribe’ gardening and food growing to those with physical or mental health conditions should be recognised and replicated.”

Nina Tovey

Nina Tovey is a public relations expert who has supported a wide range of clients throughout her career, including world leading brands, Government Departments and small-to-medium enterprises. Nina is the founder of public relations consultancy Yoke Communications.

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