Gardens have always been dependent on land politics. They can be defined by both the plants being grown and the fences that surround them. Who can garden, and who can have their own garden, is likewise connected to broader socio-political influences that determine how land and resources are distributed throughout society. These issues can only be considered in this research from the viewpoint of the garden.

Supporting literature to the concepts prevalent in my research topic is large and multidisciplinary. According to Kilpatrick (2006, p.iv), popular garden literature in Australia is “profuse”, while the academic base is “sparse but growing.” Consumerist tendencies prevail in both, though is counteracted by grassroots movements like “permaculture”.


Self sufficient gardening, or community gardening, can be situated under community food security theory as one of its actions to develop sustainable local food systems or networks Gardening, as food production, is included under this umbrella with other local actions, such as food co-ops or farmer’s markets.

Pelletier et al. (1999, p.1) defines community food security (CFS) as the “re-localization of many food system activities in response to values concerning the social, health, economic, and environmental consequences of the globalizing food system”. Community food security promotes community empowerment and control over its own food supply.

Doljanin/van Herweden (2002, p.5) offer a definition for food insecurity from a local perspective, which “exists whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate, safe foods or the ability to acquire personally acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways is limited or uncertain.”

Fritz, (2007, p.18) in a report on climate change and drought impacts for the Victorian Council of Social Service, stated that “food costs represent the biggest category of household expenditure in Australia. The cost of food has been identified by VicHealth as a significant contributor to food insecurity- which is currently experienced by 6 per cent of Victorians.”

Kantor (2001, p.1) explained that “community food security is a relatively new concept with roots in a variety of disciplines, including community nutrition, nutrition education, public health, sustainable agriculture, and community development. As such, community food security has no universally accepted definition.”

Anderson and Cook (1999, p.7) advocate for developing the theory on community food security to help “strategic planning…making the linkages between CFS and related concepts apparent.” They describe ‘three streams of practice and discipline orientation converging in the ‘community food security’ dialogue: The first is concerned with community food nutrition; the second grassroots environmentalism, and the third anti hunger and community development.

Also critiquing the lack of developed CFS theory is Pelletier et al. (1999), and Wekerle (2004, p.3), who also calls for reframing the debate from ‘food security’ to ‘food justice’: “The food justice frame highlights the focus on systemic change and the necessity for engaging in political and policy processes as well as consciously addressing issues of movement mobilization and strategies.”

Pimbert (2008, p.3) offers another framework, affirming that “throughout the world, civil society, Indigenous peoples and new social movements – rather than academics or professional policy think tanks -are the prime movers behind a newly emerging food sovereignty policy.”

Considering an inner-city community garden in Toronto, Canada, with connected kitchen and distribution programs in a “sustainable food systems approach”, Levkoe (2006, p.22) advises that “although these activities alone do not solve the challenges related to food security, they are important in building vibrant, regional food movements and stronger, sustainable local communities.”

Community food security is created by the development of sustainable local community food systems. Durum (2005) calls for local ‘food sheds’ to be considered like ‘water sheds”. CFS is shared with many interconnected movements, including permaculture, bioregionalism and relocalisation. (Relocalisation Network, 2008). It can also be seen as a return to local community.


Notable research on community gardens in Australia often focuses on more marginalised communities. Bartolomei et al (2003) investigated Waterloo Community Garden (inner-city Sydney) and its community gardeners. Woodward and Vardy (2005) undertook a groundbreaking project of multicultural significance, detailing the community gardens in inner-city Melbourne managed by Cultivating Community.

Other research includes Perkin/Lyn’s (2000) study into the ‘Women, Permaculture, Community Garden’, located at a women’s refuge in Queensland, Viola’s (2006) action research approach, introducing new food gardens to two remote Aboriginal schools, and Aboriginal community gardens in Healesville (Vic) (Woodland, 2004) and Victor Harbour (SA) (Burgess & Magookin, 2007). Another study (Christensen, 2004) included analysis of the development of a community garden at Maribyrnong Refugee Detention Centre.

The roles community gardens play in sustainability education (Corkery, 2004); sustaining healthy communities (Thompson, Corkery & Judd, 2007); and school students and neighbourhood renewal (Corkery, 1999) have also been explored. Milne (2002, on behalf of Cultivating Community) offered a valuable manual on how to develop a community garden in Australia, as did Thomas (2008).


In the US, Drescher, Holmer and Ianguita (2006) investigated “urban home gardens and allotment gardens for sustainable livelihoods.” They found that:

“Current land use planning, multistorey housing, and land use competition from different sectors limit both open space and space for gardening in the urban centres…. While home gardens need public advocacy and extension services, allotment gardens additionally require significant political intervention to secure land, organize access, and support development.” (Drescher, Holmer and Ianguita, 2006, p.1)


Comparing community gardening in Sydney, Seattle, and Vancouver, Griffith (2002, p.1) found that “the definition of community garden is changing and evolving… community gardens mean different things to different people and organisations.”

Community gardens of a voluntary nature are central to understanding a vital avenue of community participation in sustainable self sufficient gardening. They are often considered sustainable, in that organic practices are often encouraged or required, and self-sufficient, in that the garden plots are regularly used for growing food and herbs (Cultivating Community, 2008).

Milne (2002, p.3) explains further: “By providing a social focus community garden projects have a strong capacity to build community. Their role in reducing food miles by producing food close to home is an important environmental benefit. As part of urban agriculture, community gardens have the potential to integrate food production, organic waste recycling and social equity into our cities.”

Defining ‘community garden’ in a specific way can be difficult. Pudup (2007, p.3) critiques the use of the phrase ‘community garden’: “Despite the changing conditions governing collective gardening practices, ‘community garden’ remains the enduring phrase used in academic and non-academic literature to denote everything from neighbourhood vacant lot cultivation to collective gardening on the premises of schools and prisons (Bassett, 1979; Lawson, 2005). A highly evocative phrase, it connotes an idealized space of coming together among people and between people and nature.”

Looking briefly ‘over the fence’ to the ‘backyard’ garden allows for a more balanced answer to my topic, though a much larger study and representative sample would be required for further understanding and conclusions on this realm. Of note also is a move toward communal projects serving to break down some of the fences between gardens and the community.

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