BLOG #001 - The Urban Farm Journey

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The Urban Farm Journey

by Bailey Peryman

Bailey Peryman reflects on his first attempts at urban farming way back at FESTA 2013

The journey to the Cultivate version of urban farming began with an invitation from Dr. Jessica Halliday to participate in the inaugural Festival of Transitional Architecture (FESTA). The launch of Agropolis Urban Farm was one of 48 events attended by 20,000 people over Labour Weekend in 2013.

Cultivate Christchurch is my third attempt at an urban farming initiative, no less!
— Bailey Peryman
 Sole Food Street Farms grows on vacant lots using relocatable planters.

Sole Food Street Farms grows on vacant lots using relocatable planters.

Agropolis set out to test what a scalable, transitional urban farm could look like in Christchurch’s CBD. It was inspired by the SOLE Food Street Farms in Vancouver, Canada and was built to be readily relocatable to make use of vacant sites throughout the city centre.

I had stepped back from leading Agropolis (due to the birth of our first child) and it was continuing largely as a volunteer-run project. After two successful relocations within 30-day notice periods that define transitional land use projects in the CBD, it decided to fold its resources into Cultivate Christchurch early in 2016. The Agropolis community was happy for me to continue reaping what I had helped to sow.

The vision for the project still very much lives within Cultivate. Two things I love most about Agropolis is firstly that it’s where I met Douglas who gave me some Cos Lettuce seedlings to take home and plant in my own garden. I stuck them in a random spot and basically neglected them over a Winter.

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When Spring arrived, I realised I had a dozen beautiful big lettuces that had survived two snowfalls and decided to let them go to seed. They were so vigorous and strong they just had to be nurtured as a resilient local cultivar. This same seed line has come another 3 generations and is now the flagship Cos Lettuce that Cultivate sells by the crate load all-year round.

The other thing I love about Agropolis is that it’s where Cultivate Compost began. I used to walk down to C4 Coffee and wheel coffee grinds and husks back up to the site on High Street. C1 Espresso also brought over their food waste.

We ran workshops, formed a partnership with Zing Bokashi and found happiness at the bottom of many compost heaps! So what become Cultivate Waste and then Cultivate Compost was mostly just a mad young man sourcing organic waste from around town in order to build soil.

 Bailey and Liv Worsnop building  the first  compost heap at Agropolis at its original location on High Street. Over the back fence is now Smash Palace and the site has reverted to being a carpark again!

Bailey and Liv Worsnop building the first compost heap at Agropolis at its original location on High Street. Over the back fence is now Smash Palace and the site has reverted to being a carpark again!

The bike and trailer followed in 2015 with thanks to Sharon at Our Daily Waste, then the concept was developed by Agropolis Project Coordinator, Annelies Zwaan to begin offering collections as a CBD service.

 A lively working session at Agropolis Urban Farm in 2014. In the background is the building that now houses Dux Central.

A lively working session at Agropolis Urban Farm in 2014. In the background is the building that now houses Dux Central.

At Cultivate, it evolved further to become the commercial service that now diverts around 2 tonnes per week of organic material from CBD hospitality outlets. We estimate around 750 tonnes has been diverted to create 1000 cubic metres of new soil at Peterborough Urban Farm since September 2015.

 August 2018 - Urban Farm @ 156 Peterborough St.

August 2018 - Urban Farm @ 156 Peterborough St.

So there we have it. It’s really exciting to be a part of FESTA once more in 2018 and it’s also really amazing to see where the local food and farming culture is at in this city. The EatNZ Hui in Christchurch the week immediately following FESTA is a testament to that.

A big thank you to Jess and all the original Agropolisters for being great supporters of me and now Cultivate, and to the many folks who have participated in transitioning this city to what it is today. Join in the celebrations for FESTA 2018, Labour Weekend in October 20-22.

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