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Conference paper

What if edible plants would grow along our footpaths, in verges or nature strips along the road? Underutilized spaces, like grassed verges, are an underexplored opportunity for urban agriculture. In light of increasing awareness to the consequences of climate change, limited fossil fuel resources and a growing urban population, calls for food system change and ‘healthy cities’ are on the global agenda. As one way to address these challenges, urban agriculture, growing food within urban areas, is promoted. 

Footpath food gardens or verge gardens are a form of urban food gardens, primarily non-commercial urban agriculture. They offer benefits towards human and ecological health, climate adaptation and mitigation and community building. However, previous research in Australian cities found a lack of support for urban food gardens from policy and urban planning. In their research on verge gardening behaviour in Melbourne, Marshall, Grose and Williams found that people’s perception of council’s attitudes strongly influenced their decision-making. Thus, council policies can become a barrier to verge gardening, influencing the implementation of food systems in cities.  

This case study examines attitudes of councils towards verge gardening in Greater Sydney. A quantitative and qualitative comparison on the widely differing policy approaches to verge gardening is conducted through content analysis of publicly available policy documents of the 35 councils in Greater Sydney. The research questions include: What are council attitudes towards edible plants in verge gardening? Are the policy approaches cautious and risk averse or explicitly aiming to reduce barriers? Understanding how Australian councils are reacting to the growing trend of verge gardening with policies regulating their management is a crucial step towards healthier and greener streets, and widespread urban agriculture in the city. 

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