CHRISTMAS16. The UFS Address.

You've asked for it repeatedly since Sunday morning's 27.11 Christmas party, so here it is. The UFS Christmas16 address to the entire UFS family, including all the thousands and thousands of lovely peeps who don't live in our food abundant streets. Timely, given the impeding threat, issued to this neighbourhood by the Council's Director of Community Services, on Monday 28.11.   Lets not dampen the celebration, for it has been an remarkable year in the UFS neighbourhood, Australia's most sustainable suburban neighbourhood, aligning in common understanding with the council's corporate vision "to be Australia's most sustainable region - vibrant, green and divers".  It's a little long but worth the read as it provides a wrap of our collective accomplishments during 16..

Christmas16.

WOW! What a year of accomplishment in the UFS neighbourhood.

This time last year we had a few thousand facebook followers. Exposure is everything and in the space of a year we’ve grown to just on 27 thousand followers from all continents and all walks of life.  They are every day people, searching for a different, connected way of living.

As a neighbourhood we’ve welcomed visitors from all over the globe, Japan, America, France, Italy, England, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Belgium, Brazil and Germany and they are only the people that we’ve meet when we are on the street. We know there are many more.  Without fail they tell us that they are in Australia and they stop by to see if the neighoburhood that grows food in the street really exists.

We’ve hosted people officially and unofficially from all over Australia, including representatives from local, state, federal and interstate governmental departments.  Our door is open and has always been open to the people who are elected to represent our collective values, through all levels of government.  This year, we threw open our arms and invited councilors, Ted Hungerford, from Division 7, Christian Dickson (head of town planning) and the Mayor – Mark Jamison, to the UFS Christmas BBQ, providing a chance for all three to experience the social and environmental sustainability of Australia’s only food-integrated suburban landscape and to chat casually with all of you.  

As a society we face huge challenges with regards to urban sustainability, particularly in light of our cultural reluctance to embrace alternative models of suburban occupation. When our suburbs expand at the edges, we invariably turn valuable food producing lands – farmlands into poor quality housing sprawl.  The space that use to grow food has to be accommodated somewhere in the overall system. We thought a Christmas party would be a great way for our local political leaders – those that representative us, the people, collectively -  to experience the potential of suburban difference……….socially, environmentally, economically and from a public health and wellbeing perspective.  Sadly they all declined.

We’ve received inquiry from people living in every corner of this vast land who simply want to come, experience and learn about UFS and the model that makes it the success that it is.

We’ve had over 40 inquiries this year alone from people, individuals wanting to volunteer to maintain our streets, so that they can learn and take those learning with them, so that they can experience true community + we've answered hundreds of email inquiries about how others can start their own UFS. Permaculture people flock though here in droves, many stopping to admit that they could learn from what we do.

We’ve opened the door to the public through free-guided walks, in June, July, August and September. Capped at 25, we’ve walked just over 100 people through the hood on our guided walks this year. Conservatively we’ve walked well over 700 people through in total and that doesn’t include those who walk themselves through.  Thousands of people have enjoyed our hood and the public amenity that has been created.  Our waiting list for the urban walk is ever growing with just over 300 people wanting to explore our food abundant streets.  We cater for 100 a year. The list is now out to 4 years and we've never advertised. So popular has been the response that we’ve removed the form from the UFS website until further notice. 

We’ve hosted gardening groups, nutritionists, sustainability scientists, soil scientists, urban planners and managers from major metropolitan planning departments plus many more. Tomorrow we are hosting a group from Lismore, concerned with food security and looking at models of urban agriculture, they’ve hired a bus and are travelling to walk the streets of this neighbourhood.  Today we welcome the crew from ABC’s Landline.

We say that it isn’t about the food that we grow, but the harsh reality is - that it is. Particularly as the Australian food network becomes increasingly fragile. Last week Duncan and I attended a national Urban Ag. Forum in Melbourne, meeting people concerned with sustainable food and urban food production from all over the world.  There are some remarkable food projects rolling out globally and some interstate councils have to be congratulated for the incentives that they offer, including generous rate reductions for those who embrace the production of fresh, seasonal food in front yards and on nature strips.  It was humbling to see that no other project in Australia is operating at the scale of UFS, both in terms of quantity of food that we produce in the suburban context, the size of our footprint and our self sustaining funding model.  As a neighbourhood we are leading the charge and people from right around the planet are watching us grow.

We’ve spoken publically at a national conference, at environmental days, and to students from the University of the Sunshine Coast, sharing a simplistic version of the model and the theories behind it.  We’ve been awarded by EmaGN – the Emerging Architects and Graduates Network of the Australian Institute of Architects and we’ve received a special commendation from the national ideas initiative – My Big Idea. We were invited to speak at North America’s biggest placemaking event, the outcomes of which were presented at the United Nations Habitat III and informed the making of the New Urban Agenda.  The New Urban Agenda is an interesting read and aligns strongly with much of what we do in this neighbourhood and have done since 2009. We've blogged about that HERE

The list goes on. We’ve appeared in 23 media publications (many more since this was written :)) both locally and nationally that we know of. That is almost one a fortnight. Thanks to a simple social media video made by Harriet Tantham from the ABC, we, the humble UFS neighbourhood went viral. Today that video has had over 2.3 million (2.5 now) views, 42 thousand shares and continues to grow. We said it then and continue to say it now, we are delighted to be part of such a progressive and forward-thinking council, despite their reluctance to truly engage with this neighbourhood to understand the broader societal benefits of the UFS model and how this could be applied equitably to benefit other neighbourhoods across this shire right now.  

In between all of that we’ve grown food on the street edge and continued to improve the quality of our soils, for that is what we do – it’s business as usual. The food that we grow nourishes all of us either nutritionally or socially.  This year we quantified some of our winter crops. Over the short winter months from just a few verge locations we grow over 2400 units of winter greens.  Grown spray free – each unit retails for about $3.50 in the local organic stores. You do the math – that’s about $8000 dollars in winter greens alone, produced in only a few short months and distributed back to the people of this hood.

Special thanks to each and every one of you. We’ve always viewed contribution as fluid, thereby choosing to understand that one form of contribution isn’t valued over another and that everyone has something to bring. Best of all we’ve maintained a fluid organic system, unshackled by the conventions of traditional structure. There really is nothing out there like us and we know that this is a big part of our success.

When we say we, we refer specifically to the collective of people that make this neighbourhood what it is today, we extend that welcome to the entire UFS community - all 27 thousand of them.  Well done UFS – all of you are part of that ‘we’. It really has been a remarkable year.

(Capping it all off. Feel free to revisit the ABC video, one of our more memorable moments this year by pressing HERE).

Merry Christmas.