May 24, 2011

Take a SPIN on the wild side...

 Fortunately, the sun was shining in Sydney when two overseas visitors enjoyed a stopover before flying back to Canada. Fortunately, that is, because they had just flown up from Melbourne the day before where their visit to CERES took place under the grey skies and chill winds of a bewintered city.

Bert Einseidel is a retired professor emeritus who is reinventing himself, as he puts it. Instead of industrial psychology, he now works in urban agriculture with Calgary’s horticultural society although he maintains his academic ties. In Canada, his work involves assisting community gardens to get going and manage themselves. The number of community gardens, Bert explained, has grown from seven when he started five years ago to over 100 today. It’s an idea whose time really has come, it seems. Bert also works with a new food security council which, he says, is not as established as those in Toronto and Vancouver.

Bert told us about something called SPIN gardening. SPIN – it translates as Small Plot Intensve gardening – is a low-cost-of-entry enterprise, a land sharing scheme where entrepreneurial gardeners grow food for restaurants, CSAs and other enterprises in unused backyards, and earn money doing so. It is something attracting interest in Canadian cities.

Nathaniel von Einseidel is Bert’s brother. He makes his home and livelihood in Manila, in the Phillipines, where he has a private practice in planning. With a background in architecture as well, Nathaniel is the retired Commissioner of Planning for the city. One of his interests is in climate change and coastal centres, and how initiatives to deal with this can engage communities.

The brothers met up in Australia, where they visited Melbourne and Brisbane as well as Sydney to undertake a study tour of community gardens and sustainability initiatives. In Sydney, they were interested in learning more about the proposed Sydney City Farm and to see some of the city’s community gardens, which is what brought them, after visiting Newtown Community Garden and Chippendale’s Sustainable Streets-Sustainable Communities Demonstration Project where they walked the street verge gardens with their young citrus trees and other plants, to the James Street Community Garden then on to the Randwick Sustainability Hub. At James Street, they spent their time there looking at the plants and learning about the proposed stage two development planned for the garden, while at the Randwick establishment they were taken on a guided tour of the community centre, retrofitted for energy and water efficiency, and the Permaculture Interpretive Garden. There, they met Council's Sustainability Educator, Fiona Campbell, and Sustainability Manager, Peter Maganoff.

The brothers leave Australia with heads full of good ideas and, perhaps, the impression that the weather really is better in Sydney than in Melbourne.


View photos of the visit:


...Written by Russ Grayson

From left: Nathaniel, Bert von Einseidel and Russ Grayson at Randwick Sustainability Hub...

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