Wagtail Urban Farm has been in a period of transition lately. I’ve decided to try and make a living growing vegetables next year, and Wagtail has played a big part in convincing me this is the right thing to do, both for myself and for the planet. But Wagtail was always an experiment in micro-scale urban farming, and what we’ve found after the first 18 months is that it is too small an area to fully support everyone who works there financially, let alone just one person!
While we kept meticulous records of our finances, the experiment was more than just about money – it was about proving such a venture could produce serious quantities of nutritious, organically grown food for our local community on an area the size of an average backyard. It has definitely achieved this goal, and I believe it has set a precedent for urban farming in Adelaide for its productivity. This kind of farming will increasingly be needed in an era of energy descent. But to provide a sustainable livelihood here and now, I needed to expand.
So for the last few months, I’ve been working on a new project.
Village Greens is going to be a half-acre of diversified organic vegetables (10 times the size of Wagtail!), set within the fertile farmland at the Aldinga Arts Eco-Village on the Fleurieu Peninsula. It is a project developed by myself, Claud Peoples, Lucy Chan and Ellie Firns, who live at the eco-village, and who met with us at the last Permaculture Design Course tour of Wagtail. We’ve been busy setting up a business, drawing irrigation plans, and digging trenches ready to start growing early next year.
Today we launched our crowd-funding campaign, so please have a look and support us if you can! Our aim is to develop a viable model of human-scale farming, using the same techniques we’ve employed at Wagtail, but at a scale that provides us with a living wage. It follows in the tradition of Eliot Coleman, and more recently growers like Jean-Martin Fortier, who have pioneered techniques in profitable, intensive market gardening.
Wagtail will continue as Adelaide’s best-known urban farm, under the steady leadership of Steven Hoepfner. The Wagtail crew has big plans, and i’ll let Steven introduce them shortly.
Leaving Wagtail has not been an easy choice for me, given the knowledge, skills and friendships I’ve developed over the time I’ve been there, and the amazing support we’ve had from our local community and from the people who buy our vegetables.
But there will always be a strong connection between Wagtail and our new venture, and new small-scale farms can only be a good thing for Adelaide!