There is an urgent need to change society’s approach towards landscaping to include edible crops in order to accommodate growing populations and combat food insecurity.
An emerging concept called aesthetic foodscape design (AFD) is considered the way of the future and some are arguing it should be integrated into Australian architectural landscape design practices.
Joshua Zeunert, a registered landscape architect and member of the AILA, argues for the integration of edible landscapes in visible public and civic locations to encourage ongoing participation in the cultivation and sharing of food.
The AFD suggests Australian landscape architects convert their current agricultural and gardening approach to using more productive (edible) species.
“If the work of the landscape architect is to shape and make sense of our experience of place and landscape and to seek solutions to a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment then surely the problem of food – the greatest of our existence – will be central to the landscape architect’s design practice,” Zeunert says.
Australia features very few edible landscapes in its landscape architecture. Most Australian landscape design is dominated by native or exotic ornamental plants and lawn.
AFD uses the aesthetic principles of landscape architecture but hosts a collection of aims from various agricultural movements including school gardens, community gardening, kitchen gardens, permaculture and guerilla gardening.
Though these movements are growing in popularity on a small scale, they have had little impact on urban society and public space within Australia.
AFD endeavors to create edible but aesthetically pleasing landscapes in public spaces. It calls for exploration by landscape architects and designers of edible plants within public landscapes and seeks to embed more edible plant species into their daily use.
Zeunert says for AFD to be successfully taken up by those in the architectural design practice, a shift by authorities, clients and designers is needed in order to understand and accept the differences that edible plants pose to landscapes as opposed to ornamental planting regimes.
A shift toward AFD will help to shift Australia’s cultural awareness of food practices towards more local, resilient food systems, which Zeunert says will be essential for the future.
Zeunert holds high hopes for AFD taking off, noting that modern landscape architecture in Australia "has been receptive to environmental challenges.”
Engagement with the local community, the clients, approval authorities, and stakeholders is required for AFD to be successfully integrated, as is selecting edible plants destined to succeed with ongoing maintenance of the crops.
Over the past decade, concern over food security has grown. Rejecting highly processed, imported and genetically modified foods, many people now want tastier, healthier food that has been grown closer to home.
Communities have taken it upon themselves to live more sustainably through community gardening on public land.
Landshare Australia is an organisation dedicated to engaging the community in food cultivation and sharing private land with those in need. It was established after successful implementation in the UK and aims to match up individuals with extra land suitable for growing with those who want to do the dirty work. The grower shares their produce with the landowner and everyone benefits.
“There are many backyards and vacant blocks around Melbourne and the rest of the country that could be utilised and turned into productive gardens to benefit everyone and foster a greater sense of community,” says Landshare Australia co-founder Phil Dudman.
Developing countries are sometimes steps ahead of developed countries in terms of public food cultivation. In Vietnam, Vo Trong Nghia Architects recently designed a sustainable primary school where children learn to grow their own food.
Located in Dong Nai, the green roof is designed as a continuous vegetable garden and a place to teach children the importance of agriculture and our relationship with nature.
In Australia, several schools have small-scale communal gardens where children are taught the importance of farming. The Australian Organic Schools program teaches children across the country about the importance of nutrition and our natural environment.
The program was written by author Lyn Bagnall for students aged eight to 12.
“Sharing our knowledge of organic cultivation will provide the younger generation with the skills and enthusiasm they need to face the challenges of producing delicious, healthy food, in a sustainable manner, for an increasing population on a warmer planet,” Bagnall says.
From schools to community gardens to corporate landscape architecture, edible plant species need to become the core of landscaping in Australia’s public domain in order to maximise the use of space and help combat the impending food crisis.