The following projects are part of an RMIT university design studio exploring access and food production in Diggers Rest. The studio was initiated by Fiona Harrisson from the Landscape Architecture Program at RMIT University as part of a student project in response to a report ‘Investigating Food Security Within Melton Shire’ in 2007 by Djerriwarrh Health Services that identified both Diggers Rest and Rock Bank as ‘food insecure’. Residences have to travel large distances to obtain fresh fruit and vegetables, in Diggers Rest it is about a 12 km round trip to Sunbury. Diggers Rest is a case study for a larger research project looking at the potential of food production in urban environments, otherwise known as urban agriculture, which is becoming increasingly relevant particularly in light of the environmental and social challenges of the 21st century. In addition to the production of food, urban agriculture also asks us to rethink urban and suburban development and this is part of the mandate of the following projects.
These project have been generated by a group of students who have spent a semester exploring the issues and possibilities in Diggers Rest. These projects are not intended as solutions to a problem as this is the domain of the community and local council; rather they are intended to generate discussion. We are aware that we are outsiders but it is hoped may allow a freshness of approach that is sometimes not afforded to those up close.
The studio was set up within the ‘real’ world context so student has the opportunity to engage directly with the people for whom their projects are intended. The studio was structured around two community meetings in Diggers Rest, which were intended to solicit feedback through talking with the people directly involved with their projects on the ground in relation to access to fresh fruit and vegetables in Diggers Rest the community dialogue was intended to be more than just consulting the community. Its intention was to expose students to the implications of urban agriculture as through the eyes of the people directly involved in maintaining and developing the ideas that designers leave behind. Ideally the project ideas offer the community some stimulus in the conversation around food security.
Through various site visits the student were asked to develop an approach to food within Diggers Rest. The students had to decide what they thought was the best way to respond to the issue of food access including the best location within the town. Whilst the students were bringing in new ideas, they were also required to respond to the forces, which are described as ‘bottom up’. Bottom up includes responding to local spatial and physical conditions, including soil and water, and more significantly, through dialogue with the local communities, which is why the community forums played on important role.
The studio ran over one semester, from July to November in 2008. During this time the students explored Diggers rest through various site visits. During this time there were two community forums held by RMIT University, each tome 700 invitations were delivered to letterboxes. The first forum was held at the Lawn Bowls Club on Saturday the 30th August. It was to get input from the residents into the issues facing the town before proceeding with developing some design ideas. The second forum was a presentation of student work held in the Kindergarten on Saturday the 11th October. This was an opportunity for residents to provide feedback on the design ideas and for the students to incorporate them into their project. We hope they make sense without the verbal commentary.
Where to from here:
We welcome your comments, good and bad, as we are still keen to know what you think. The process, however, is now in the hands of the community as the RMIT project is now complete. Here are the projects for you to with them what you will. Thanks to those of you who shared your insights and time with us along the way. This is an invaluable part of the learning process.
The Design Institute at RMIT University for research funding.
Melton Shire Council
Diggers Rest Community Web Links (DiggersRest.com)
Diggers Rest Residents Association
Pam Morgan Food For All Program Officer, Melton Shire
Studio Research collaborators:
Fiona Harrisson, Lecturer in Landscape Architecture, Architecture and Design
Melanie Dodd, Lecturer in Architecture, Architecture and Design
Dave Mercer, Associate Professor, Coordinator, International Urban Environment, Global Studies, Social Science and Planning
Blake Farmar Bowers
Book Design: Jasmine
Production and ideas: George Wright