Step closer for ACT's sustainable city farm

Susan Parsons
Gavin Williams' well-fed chooks.
Gavin Williams' well-fed chooks. Photo: Melissa Adams

It is good to end 2013 with a food proposal for the New Year. Gavin Williams is secretary of Canberra City Farm and is working with the ACT government to find a site to start the city farm project in 2014.

Two years ago, my godson, Duncan Sheil, and his family, who live in the hills behind Brisbane, took his mother and me on a Sunday visit to Northey Street City Farm in suburban Windsor. We wandered around the organic community kitchen garden, looked at the chook Hilton, watched papermaking, bought local strawberries and Montville coffee from food stalls in an outdoor market and indigenous plants from an onsite nursery, and joined the children in a play area where there was a sand pit, and swings hanging from tree branches.

This is the model Williams wants to create in Canberra, though his ideal is Ceres, a city farm in Melbourne since the 1980s, about which he spoke at the Food Security Mini Expo held in Canberra in November, hosted by See Change and Fusion Horticulture.

Firm favourite ... Gavin Williams and Missy with a tromboncino zucchini, raised from seed, that has been planted in a ...
Firm favourite ... Gavin Williams and Missy with a tromboncino zucchini, raised from seed, that has been planted in a bale of pea straw. Photo: Melissa Adams

Canberra City Farm is a not-for-profit group focused on responsible food production and sustainable cities. It is a hub for connecting farmers, food producers and urban people.

The group was behind the Floriade urban food garden this year (an Urban Agriculture Australia project,, which showed 25 technologies, including improvised vertical planting systems, composting methods, aquaculture and keeping chooks.

Costa Georgiadis, of Gardening Australia, was so taken with the garden that he joined a roster to volunteer there.

At home in Rivett, Gavin Williams, wife Kate Eversteyn and their three children have a large hen house with eight chickens of four varieties - australorp, hy-line, light sussex and plymouth rock. The chook run is bordered with dorato d'asti celery, which is allowed to go to seed, and fruit trees - plum, apricot, apple, citrus and pomegranate. Williams created different levels in the sloping garden to prevent rain run-off.

He has raised seedlings of pumpkins, cucumbers, eggplants, heirloom varieties of eggplants from Diggers - Italian striped listada di gandia and round white rosa bianca. He also has Lebanese cucumbers, beans to be dried for soups, including borlotti, haricot and red kidney, heirloom tomatoes and Christmas grape tomatoes, corn, capsicums and his favourite zucchini, tromboncino. He has planted vegetables into bales of pea straw that make a dividing wall next to the children's play area. He also raised seedlings for the Canberra City Farm stall at the night market organised by the Canberra Environment Centre on December 6.

They have built a pizza oven in their back garden for this season of celebration and have a wide variety of herbs for the pizzas - oregano, sage, basil, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, chives, coriander, mint and Vietnamese mint. One garden bed is devoted to potatoes and garlic, with lettuce, rocket, spinach and spring onions for the salad bowl. Their favourite pizza recipe (see panel, left) is from The Margaret Fulton Cookbook (1968, revised 2004).



Makes 2


2⅓ cups plain flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 sachet dried yeast

¾ cup lukewarm water

3 tbsp olive oil

Sift the flour into a large bowl with the salt and stir in the sugar and yeast. Make a well in the middle and add the water and oil. Mix to a dough then turn out on to a well-floured board. Knead until smooth and elastic. Let the dough rise in an oiled bowl in a warm place until doubled. Divide in two and roll each to about 30cm in diameter. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes. Spread with sauce.

Tomato sauce

1kg ripe tomatoes

6 tbsp olive oil

10 basil leaves or oregano (or both)

salt and pepper

Peel the tomatoes and chop them roughly. Add to a pan in which the oil has been heated, with any tomato juice and the herbs. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick. Remove the herbs and season.

Toppings: Prosciutto slices, with bocconcini and grated mozzarella. When cooked, top with fresh rocket. Salami with kalamata olives, anchovy fillets and strips of roasted capsicum and eggplant.

>> Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.