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Sustainable sustenance in Artarmon

Back when it started in 2006, the Artarmon Sustainability Street group visited Michael Mobbs' “sustainable house” in Chippendale. While displaying measures to manage energy, water and waste efficiently, Mobbs identified his next goal as more sustainable consumption. Though not as obvious as water and energy use tallied in our bills or waste wheeled to the kerb, the total environmental impacts from goods we buy are substantial. Mobbs now declares food “the only game in town” and is promoting a new inner-city plan. It includes measures to support buying locally-grown food, public composting and community gardens of native trees, fruit trees, herbs, vegetables and other plants in road verge, vertical and rooftop gardens (see

Meanwhile, there are mixed signs for food sustainability in Artarmon. Those who value shopping locally for seasonal, locally-grown food would have been saddened to read in May's Gazette (p6) of green grocer John Saraceno’s death and how businesses like Artarmon Fruit Market which for years has offered locals organic produce and free range eggs raised in the Sydney food bowl are struggling to survive. Their challenges include, not only supermarket dominance and increased consumer reliance on processed and fast foods, but the progressive tide of urban sprawl wiping out agriculture on the city's fringe.

Some other nearby examples of outlets for organic or locally-grown food include Honest to Goodness at George Place, Artarmon (see February Gazette, p7)), and the organic and farmers market held each Saturday at Chatswood Public School (see

There is renewed interest in community gardening in Artarmon and council support is now sought for a proposal to expand the garden outside Artarmon library and focus on food production. New volunteers will be needed to help plan and plant the new no-dig garden, then to maintain and water it. This is an opportunity for practical learning about sustainable gardening techniques and what food plants can flourish in Artarmon, under the mentorship of residents with expertise and long experience. A first meeting with prospective volunteers is hoped for at the end of August. Anyone interested should contact Lena on 0415 295 323 or Eve on 9412 3296.

Another positive sign for Artarmon is the increase in private gardens producing food and applying sustainable growing techniques. One example is Craig and Georgina's garden in Burra Rd. The couple briefed a professional landscaper to devise a plan but has done all the labour themselves. They adopted a set of principles relevant for many Artarmon gardens, including retaining some of the existing plants and character of the garden, making it productive and keeping it in harmony with the adjacent bush.

Along with native and ornamental plants, the garden includes herbs, fruit trees, vegetable beds in which crops are alternated to re-enrich the soil and a chook run with three residents. One of its more spectacular features is echinacea flowers when in bloom. Beds are laid out to maximise solar access for sun-loving plants and large water tank occupies a shady corner. It roughly follows permaculture zonings – herbs close to the house, vegetable beds behind and livestock on the back fence, farthest from the house.

A very rich source of information for those interested in this big and diverse topic is the sustainable living collection in Artarmon Library. There are also many websites worth checking, such as and the Office of Environment and Heritage site

When one delves into the literature, it is obvious that few ideas on food sustainability are new. No sooner had we bought chooks than an elderly neighbour, who's lived all her life in our street, told us the clucking was very nostalgic, there having once been chooks all along the backs of the houses. There is, however, one change since those days to be thankful for: “No roosters permitted”.

by Alethea Morison

Courtesy of Gazette August 2012
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Sustainability Street Logo

Snow Peas
Snow peas grow readily in Artarmon and, rotated with other vegetables, help restore the soil. Here a home-made bamboo climbing frame will support them as they get bigger
Photo: Neil Irvine





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