Wandering: Pocket City Farm Visit
Just around the corner from the Tree of Life HQ is the Camperdown Commons. What was the old Camperdown Bowling club has since become a beautiful urban farm and restaurant that beckons all you wander by, so we dropped by for a chat to find out exactly what it's all about!
Can you both introduce yourselves for our lovely readers?
I'm Emma Bowen, the general manager and co founder at Pocket City Farms
I'm Michael Zagoridis, the farm manager and co founder of Pocket City Farms.
And the little farmer in training is Banjo!
How did Pocket City Farms all begin? What started it?
We both worked together in the publishing industry, Michael was a graphic designer. After becoming disillusioned with the industry, he decided to quit and become a farmer. We both started searching for places in the city to farm.
With Emma's background in sustainability, we initially looked at rooftops (and still are) with land being such a premium in the city though faced challenges with owners and the like. Around 3 & 1/2 years ago this space became available and we put in a tender with Camperdown Project to use the space as a urban farm, community and recreation facility and to have restaurant onsite. Once it was approved, after years of paperwork, we established the first of what we hope to be many, Pocket City Farms.
How long has this project been in the making?
It's been a total of 6 years in the making but it's now where we it to be. As locals who live in the Inner west, it's was great for Michael to longer need to commute to be a farmer, who had previously been commute out west to Dural everyday to work on a little organic farm. This allows us to spend more time with family and do what we love.
That said, we are still looking for more spaces and looking to grow the project. The name came from the idea that eventually we'd like to have lots of little pockets of farms across the city!
How has the local community reacted to the project?
The community reaction has been insanely positive, which shows that community around here were looking for something like this.
People are alway impressed when they see it which is a reward for all the hard work that we have put into it.
Did you handle the labour and construction yourselves?
Pocket City Farms is a team of 5, with us two and Luke Heard, Karen Erdos, Adrian Baiada. It's a not for profit, and all 5 of us board members have put in hours of volunteering time to build the first farm. About 1.5 years ago we got the tick of approval from council to regenerate the soil. With a small budget, a lot of volunteering hours have gone into making it what it is today, with the help of a successful crowdfunding campaign.
A lot of what you see of the farm is our handiwork, while the building work was done by Camperdown Commons.
Are you still looking for volunteers and involvement with the project?
Yes, definitely! We run volunteer days every Wednesday and every second Saturday at the moment. About 5 or 6 people at time come and do a 2 hour session. Sometimes they will hang around because they are just so passionate about it! It's not a community garden in the sense that others can plant in it but we want to make sure it's accessible to the general public.
For us, farming in the city is putting people in touch with where their food comes from and how it's grown, so that ongoing volunteer component is huge for us.
Where does what produce from the farm go?
Currently, we are splitting it between the restaurant onsite and the local community. We run a stall in front of the farm selling the rest of the produce.
Its open Saturdays, kicking off the first weekend in August.
Do you host any other events or workshops as part of the project?
We do! We run a range of workshops here, everything from growing food in small spaces to building healthy soil as well as starting a series of lifestyle focused workshops including seed saving, bush tucker, foraging, and foraged flower arrangements, cocktail workshops, theres a huge range of workshops kicking off in August with lots more going on in Spring.
We also run yoga here in the outdoor pavilion, every Saturday and Sunday as well as a couple of times a week. With the warmer weather coming, we're hoping to do more!
Do you have any suggestion for people who might want to start growing their own little crops? What's good to grow in small spaces?
You can get started with some perennial herbs like thyme, salad greens and radish. Herbs are great because you can pick some off but still have it growing away for next time.
If you want to find out a little more about what's on at Pocket City Farms or want to get involved, check out their website. You can also find them on Instagram or drop by in person at Camperdown Commons at 31A Mallett St, Camperdown, NSW 2050.