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Over the last decade, increasing numbers of people living in cities have sought to re-connect with the food system that sustains them, often through growing their own food. The suburban backyard has emerged, or perhaps re-emerged, as the mainstay of urban food production, but rising numbers of community gardens, land share arrangements, verge gardens and school kitchen gardens are also making gardening accessible to urban dwellers.
Many people are taking up urban agriculture because they believe that the food they grow at home is tastier and healthier than food bought in conventional stores. Others produce their own food as a way to avoid food allergies or because gardening is an expression of their cultural heritage. In this section of the website, we explore some of the ways contemporary urban gardeners understand, practice and experience food production and the role the Royal Canberra Show plays in shaping and celebrating these experiences.
The stories told here draw on interviews recorded in February 2012.
Award-winning urban farmers forum
Three of the growers featured here, Melissa Dede, Chris Hunter and Brett King, also shared advice on growing at a forum held during Floriade in October 2013.
Melissa Dede is a dedicated organic gardener. The passion to reduce the chemicals consumed by her husband and four sons has inspired her to grow much of her family’s food supply in a large plot at a suburban Canberra organic community garden. The thrill of competing at the Show has spread to her children who enter their garden produce and vegetable sculptures. In 2012 Melissa’s zucchini pickle won the Champion ribbon for best condiment.
Cheryl Grgurinovic is a highly successful show entrant. She specialises in jams, preserves and sauces but also enters cakes and bread. The technical challenge of producing a perfect product inspires Cheryl. So too does the social aspect of the show. With friends as fellow competitors, the show is a social event which culminates in a meal out paid for by their yearly prize money.
Chris and Merran Hunter
Chris and Merran Hunter have been involved with agricultural shows since childhood – Chris in the UK and Merran in Australia. Their passion has evolved from exhibiting produce in agricultural shows to now being stewards at the Canberra show and judges at other agricultural shows. They continue to exhibit their produce in various shows. For Merran it’s her baked goods and preserves often based on produce from their suburban backyard. Chris never knows what he’ll be exhibiting – it depends upon what looks good around the time of the agricultural show. Whenever they travel, they try and include a visit to a local agricultural show.
Jonathan Banks has been growing fruit and vegetables organically at Pialligo since the 1980s. Many Canberrans will be familiar with the apples that he produces as they are sold at farm gate stall during apple season each year. His garden is home to a variety of plants – many that we may think of as weeds. By creating and allowing a natural eco system to form, it’s part of the way he believes garden ‘pests’ can be managed. He never knows what he’ll be exhibiting at the show – it’s usually a last-minute decision.
Brett King grew up in the Wellington district of central New South Wales and currently lives in northern Canberra. Brett’s rural childhood informs and motivates his gardening practices today. Brett serves as a steward in the horticultural produce section of the Canberra Show, where he organises the displays of fruits and vegetables, and assists the judges.
Panta Simeonovic and his wife Emilija migrated from rural Yugoslavia to Australia in 1968, and settled in Queanbeyan, east of Canberra. In their garden near the Queanbeyan River, they applied the deep knowledge of vegetable and fruit gardening that they’d acquired in Yugoslavia as children and young adults. Today their backyard is extraordinarily productive, producing a wide range of crops.