Melbourne: A Fertile Yarra, celebrating Glenda M. Lindsay

In Melbourne, Australia, friends of an outstanding local influencer are planning a Jane's Walk to celebrate her life's work in urban agriculture.

Annie Bolitho, April 25, 2017

What is a Jane’s Walk? What makes it different from any other walk? We city organizers and walk leaders often ask this as we involve others, and plan our own walks. Apart from the talking while walking, the looking and learning, here in Melbourne we get excited about two aspects of Jane Jacobs’ legacy and the walks:

1. People’s influence on urban space  

2. The questions provoked by looking more closely and considering contemporary interventions in place.

The seed of an idea

Perhaps this is why I approached some of Glenda Lindsay’s other buddies at her magnificent end of life celebration in January 2017, suggesting we get together down the track and plan a Jane’s Walk to celebrate her legacy. To give you some idea of Glenda's influence, a councillor from City of Yarra, the local government she lobbied and pushed for many years on the urban agriculture agenda, sent a message to Glenda’s partner when she heard of her passing. It included the statement If there aren’t choirs and gardens where Glenda is now, there soon will be. Many at the celebration spoke of the unforgettable moment at a formal meeting when Glenda sang a song she’d composed about urban gardening and climate change and got everyone, including city councillors, to do a Mexican wave and join in the singing.

The Fertile Yarra, collaboration and route

Our walk, planned for 6 May, is titled ‘A Fertile Yarra, Celebrating Glenda M. Lindsay’. Peta and I decided when we planned the walk that it would be about community food projects: what's going on, where it’s all going, and how to be involved. A community of active involved people is expanding the scale of food growing in the city, and getting new and diverse people involved. Together we enjoy making something beautiful of it. Together we influence change. The walk is not a memorial, but a look forward with the benefit of experience.

All the collaborators on the walk are people who worked alongside Glenda in the the inner urban area of Fitzroy, and were inspired by her. Peta Christensen is a permaculturist and food systems thought leader from Cultivating Community, which has oversight of community gardens at public housing estates and develops sustainable community food projects. Kate Dundas, a landscape architect and urban designer, is on the board of 3000 acres, which gets food growing in the inner city by influencing the the public and private sector to rethink vacant land use, and giving community groups the knowledge and skills they need to make it happen. Lisa Coffa is City of Yarra’s Waste Minimisation Coordinator, and she'll talk about the composting from cafes initiative started back in 2000 which has grown into a multi-council waste reduction strategy.

We love Food Swap! And it happens to be on the first Saturday of the month. There will be a number of our buddies at that stop. They’ll have herbal tea waiting for the walkers, and we’ll break into groups to talk and make bunting out of the triangles of fruit/veggie/chooks fabric that Glenda cut out in the last weeks of her life. On the bag she wrote for Peta with love - have fun with these! xx We will!

Our final stop is a small productive sidewalk garden. Community gardens in the inner city are now better accepted, through the creation of guidelines and liaison between council and locals. In the early days, at Tramstop 22, Glenda carved out a notorious small garden in the bitumen, with espaliered apple edges and bountiful herbs and plants. The garden raised the ire of various councillors and council staff, and was often on the cards for demolition. It has survived, though when I last passed it, it wasn’t in great shape.

Thought provoking

Some questions I’ll be asking on the walk are about small community gardens and their value for awareness raising, social network creation and food production. How can the skills and expertise developed in the inner city be made available to benefit low-income suburbs further out, where resource scarcity will be felt hardest in future? And what of streetside crate-style gardens? A researcher at the University of Melbourne who recently conducted an inner-city audit estimates that a high proportion of ours are neglected and unproductive. Are they the best way to increase food growing in the city?

A question many have at heart is: What should become of the Tram Stop 22 garden? Many city councils in Melbourne are seeing a range of memorial gardens popping up, and are wondering what to do with them. Who will maintain them? For how long?

Finally, the biggest question I hope the walk will be imbued with is this: How do we influence at a local level? How can we be practical, tenacious, creative and collaborative, and work with care? How can we make things beautiful and effective, and develop longstanding relationships wherever we go?

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Glenda M. Lindsay in her natural habitat

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