Accessing local and global knowledge
The Seed Savers’ Network is a not-for-profit organisation based in Australia to conserve, in culture, seeds of traditional varieties of plants for food and other uses. The members are home gardeners saving locally adapted seeds of tomorrow’s food. The network favours varieties that are locally adapted, hardy and dependent on neither synthetic fertilisers nor toxic chemicals, but rather home-made composts. It is the publisher of The Seed Savers’ Handbook, by M. and J. Fanton, available via the website. The handbook is a 180-page complete reference for growing, preparing and conserving 117 traditional varieties of food plants.
Canberra Seed Savers Cooperative (CSSC) is a network of urban food growers and local farmers working cooperatively to protect abundant, common heritage of open-pollinated food seeds. CSSC members swap and share seeds, learn and teach about seed growing and saving, and together build a resilient community seed sharing network – a ‘living seed bank’. CSSC welcomes new members to become part of the local network of seed savers, growers and guardians. It promotes seed saving as an activity for everyone.
In 2023, the ACT Government formed a partnership with Grow It Local, a national movement established in 2012 that supports 400,000 Australians in growing, sharing, and eating locally grown food. Joining the Grow It Local community connects people with local growers to learn and share knowledge, expertise, produce, and recipes. Under an optional paid subscription, community members can also sign up to receive open-pollinated, organic, heirloom seeds each season and step-by-step guides for their own patch-to-plate journeys.
Southern Harvest is a farmer-led, member organisation focused on growing local and regional food communities in the ACT and south-eastern NSW. The purpose of the Association is ‘to foster the sustainable growth and availability of local produce within the Southern Harvest region’ through market opportunities, education, networking and advocacy. It aims to support healthy relationships between growers, producers, consumers and the community and to develop partnerships with like-minded organisations, local government and community groups to help facilitate the consumption of local produce.
A major aim of Canberra City Farm, located at 2 Dairy Road, Fyshwick, is to show, by education, demonstration and self help, that organic agriculture and sustainable living works and can productively feed the community. It has a number of allotments of various sizes that members can rent to grow their own food.
The farm welcomes new members and visitors. Its regular activities include a monthly newsletter, workshops, a sustainable living podcast, and monthly mingles and plant clinics. Seedlings are offered for sale via the Open Food Network Shop.
Capital Scraps operates a kerbside collection and composting service that takes kitchen scraps and turns them into valuable soil amendment, avoiding the generation of methane in landfill. Kerbside pick-up is currently available only in Hackett, Watson and Braddon, but there is a Haig Park drop-off point available to all. See the website for how you might be able to sign up for the service.
SEE Change is a grass-roots sustainability organisation based in Canberra. It is focused on making beneficial changes to our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE) in order to live more sustainably.
The Canberra Environment Centre is a non-government, not-for-profit environmental education centre that empowers people to create a sustainable future for the Canberra community by promoting lifelong behavioural change. Providing support for, and information on, sustainable, organic home and small-scale food production are key activities of the centre.
Access via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/localfoodcanberraregion).
The Garden Clubs of Australia Inc. is a non-profit organisation formed in 1950. The organisation provides a range of services to its members (affiliated clubs) and currently has a membership of over 780 clubs representing more than 52,000 individuals.
The club’s motto is ‘Friendship Through Gardens’. It publishes Our Gardens, a down-to-earth, full-colour quarterly magazine with practical articles by experienced fellow gardeners and growers. There are seasonal tips, diary dates and club niews. Our Gardens is available by personal subscription or through an affiliated club.
Community Gardens Australia is a networking organisation connecting community gardeners around Australia. COGS gardens are under its umbrella. Its website provides, among other useful information, detailed fact sheets on how to establish and manage a community garden.
Deep Green Permaculture is an educational gardening website, providing practical information and easy to follow DIY instructional guides on a wide range of topics. Although its focus is permaculture, the site holds much that will also be of direct interest and value to organic gardeners.
This companion website to the bimonthly ABC Organic Gardener magazine contains much useful information in its own right. Subscription details for the magazine are provided and visitors can also sign up for a regular newsletter. Note that the electronic version of the magazine is accessible by ACT library members (see below).
Organic gardening principles must always be complied with in the community gardens. Non-organic pesticides, herbicides or inorganic fertilisers are not to be used. The organic principles for COGS’ gardens draw on the National Standard for Organic and BioDynamic Produce (edition 3.7, September 2016); recommendations for allowable inputs are set out in the COGS Members Area (https://cogs.asn.au/recommendations-for-selecting-inputs-for-organic-gardens/).
Our ACT library system, accessible @ library.act.gov.au, or at its physical branches in Belconnen, Civic. Dickson, Erindale, Gungahlin, Kingston, Kippax, Tuggeranong and Woden, is a rich source of published information on organic gardening and related activities, readily accessible to library members. The library catalogue can be searched online: a search for ‘Organic Gardening’, for example, yields 90 ‘hits’, most of them of moderate to high relevance. A high proportion of them have the convenience of electronic access. Again, searches for ‘Composting’ and ‘Permaculture’ deliver a wealth of relevant and up-to-date information. The library should be among the first ports of call for organic gardeners seeking to broaden their knowledge on particular aspects of the craft.
The following are some highly relevant Australian titles held by the library.
Jones, Rebecca 2010. Green Harvest: a history of organic farming and gardening in Australia. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Vic.
Bagnall, Lyn 2006. Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting. Scribe Publications, Brunswick, Vic.
Hodges, Jeffrey 2006. The Organic Garden. Viking, Camberwell, Vic.
Garden Organic 2009. Grow Organic, ed, Louise Abbott. Dorling Kindersley, Camberwell, Vic.
French, Jackie 1990. Natural Control of Garden Pests. Aird Books, Melbourne.
Woodward, Penny et al. 2018. Tomato: know sow grow feast. Author published.