Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Gardening In The Street: Sociality, Production And Consumption In Northey Street City Farm

by Emanuele John Gelsi, B.A. (JCU), Grad.Dip.Arts (JCU)

March 1999

A thesis is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Social Planning and Development in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at The University of Queensland
I hereby declare that this is the result of my own independent research and all sources which have been consulted are acknowledged. The thesis has not been submitted in whole or in part for a degree at this or at any other university.


This thesis explores the links between consumption and sociality within the temporal and spatial context of Northey Street City Farm, a Brisbane community garden.

A review of the sociological literature on community gardening, a form of urban agriculture, highlights the need to explore the intersection of consumption and sociality.

Participant observation of the Northey Street City Farmers and ten interviews of the same were analysed using the 'grounded theory' method. Basic descriptive statistics of the City Farmers were also obtained.

Findings show that sociality and ideology crucially motivate participation and inform different decision-making models. The analysis shows that contradictions between modernist projectivism and the 'will to life' of the masses, which are both present within the environmentalist culture, together with the social and economic pressures placed on individual City Farmers, hinder City Farm's ethical, social, economic and ecological goals.

In my discussion I give shared emotion theoretical prominence through an analysis of consumption and class, and show the interplay of emotion and ideology that is expressed in social and ideological distinctions is partly relativised in City Farm's spatial and temporal context. Consequently, City Farmers' ethical concerns and the incorporation of the stranger, actualised through fairs and feasts, are articulated through the geographical context. I conclude by emphasising the importance of habit to planning for City Farm.









(Not included in this web edition)

1 Northey Street City Farm map
1 Northey Street City Farm vegetable garden
2 Northey Street City Farm tool sheds and community board area
3 Northey Street City Farm backyard demonstration garden
4 Northey Street City Farm's stall at the Water for Wildlife Festival
5 Green Fair, 1997
6 Food buffet, Equinox feast at Northey Street City Farm, 1997
7 Drummers, Equinox feast at Northey Street City Farm, 1997
8 Bonfire, Equinox feast at Northey Street City Farm, 1997
1 Northey Street City Farm Wold Wide Web site.


I wish to express my gratitude to Associate Professor Patrick Mullins for his help and patience in supervising this thesis. I would also like to thank the Northey Street City Farm gardeners for their participation in the interview process. My thanks are also extended to my parents Alberto and Licia Gelsi for their moral support, to Mr Kieran Tranter, Ms Lyndall Sleep and Ms Philippa Hawke for their advice and lengthy discussions, and to Mr Robert Righton without whose computer support this thesis would have not been possible.




This thesis examines Northey Street City Farm in Windsor, Brisbane, one of 38 community gardens currently existing in Australia, with regards to self-reliance and the environmental ideology held by its members. This chapter outlines the purpose of this thesis and its organisation, and defines some important concepts.

Cultural habits significantly impact on policies and plans aimed at addressing the social, economic and material needs of people. The engagement in consumption activities constitutes one such significant cultural habit for people in Western countries. However, due to a theoretical bias towards production, sociologists and policy makers ignore consumption as an important form of cultural activity. This thesis attempts to redress this theoretical imbalance by examining the practices of consumption of a group of Australian community gardeners. The reason for exploring the social and cultural life of a community gardening group is to provide a site where environmentalist concerns about the impacts of consumption intersect with those social and economic relations that environmentalists are attempting to transform.

Given the scarcity of sociological research on community gardening, this thesis presents an exploratory study of one of the 38 Australian community garden and city farm groups listed by Phillips (1996). Specifically, I will explore how the community gardeners' production and consumption activities, together with the cultural and ideological representations of these come to mediate and construct the group's identity. To achieve this aim I will focus on the gardeners of Northey Street City Farm in Brisbane.

Community gardening as urban agriculture

Community gardening is one of many forms of urban agriculture. In order to place community gardening in its context it is necessary to have an understanding of the status of contemporary urban agriculture as a broad strategy for addressing the socio-economic and ecological impacts of food production through self-sufficiency, self-reliance and permaculture design.

Urban agriculture is the production of vegetable and animal food within urban boundaries. For instance, peri-urban agriculture (broad acre commercial food production) is practised on the urban fringe. Food is also grown on rooftops, in apartment gardens, and in home backyards. Community gardens are also sites where food is grown. However, they have their own distinct social organisation. Community gardens are sites where people produce vegetables and fruit and educate the public about urban agriculture. They may be cultivated communally or subdivided into allotments cultivated by individuals. City farms also engage in these same activities and are organised in the same way, but also rear domestic animals as food sources. (As community gardens and city farms are very similar, hereafter these terms will be treated as synonymous.) Community gardens are numerous in industrialised countries. In New York alone there are over 1000 community gardens, and Boston and San Francisco have 400 and 100 respectively. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver are also similarly involved in community gardening (Sommers and Smit 1994:1-2). In all known cases the land belongs to the city municipality.

Urban agricultural activities can be traced back to antiquity (Mougeot 1994). Today environmentalists and non-government organisations argue that urban agriculture has the potential for addressing a number of social, economic and ecological problems (cf. Funches 1992; Katz 1991). However, most efforts at developing urban agriculture are aimed at industrialising countries where lack of food access accentuates health and nutritional issues. This focus has taken precedence over the development of long-term urban agricultural policies that address broader urban social and ecological sustainability issues in industrialised countries (cf. Atkinson 1995). Because of this the intersection between these policy concerns and the cultural context of urban agricultural activity has also been ignored.

From a sociological viewpoint, the notion and practice of urban agriculture challenges the traditional urban-rural dichotomy, that is, the geographical differentiation of labour between food producers in rural areas, and non-food producers in urban areas. This blurring of rural-urban boundaries has postmodernist connotations. As Rose and Tikhomirov (1993) argue, since the rural-urban dichotomy characterises a modernised society, the move towards urban agriculture constitutes a shift towards de-modernisation, where, because the market, as in the Russian and Eastern European cases, cannot adequately satisfy food demand, people are forced to grow food in the city.

In Australia, however, the economic, social and cultural differentiation between city and country is still marked. Agricultural activity within cities, compared to formal rural agriculture, is minuscule. This is demonstrated by a 1992 Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) survey of selected foods produced in the home ( Foods produced were fruit and vegetables, seafood, domestic poultry, eggs, wine and beer.) from a sample of 34,000 households. The survey indicated that:

the total home grown crop was 110,000 tonnes, compared with fruit production of 2,554,000 tonnes in the Agricultural Census. [Of this production] non-metropolitan households accounted for more home production (of the selected foodstuffs) than the capital cities. The only exception was wine production (ABS 1992:1).

On the other hand, despite this extremely low level of home food provisioning, community gardens in Australia have grown from one in 1977 to 38 in 1996. Of the gardens with a known establishment year, only 12 community gardens had been established between 1977 and 1989, but between 1990 and 1996 a further 26 gardens were established. In other words, in the space of six years the number of community gardens increased by 116.66%, or 4.3 new gardens per year, as compared to one garden established for each of the 12 preceding years. Although there is no record of community gardens that were formed and then disbanded in the aforementioned periods, such a considerable increase in such a short period is remarkable.

Self-sufficiency and self-reliance

Because of the pervasive influence of environmentalism in all things ecological, the language that community gardeners employ will often include concepts such as self-sufficiency and self-reliance. These concepts and their implementation are integral to ecologically sustainable practices which "[meet] the need of the present without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (WCED 1987:43). In other words, self-sufficiency and self-reliance are part of the ecological stewardship used to counter, as environmentalists believe, the passive and excessive consumption of natural resources and the ecological degradation and social disempowerment that ensues (cf. Coleman 1994). It is thus appropriate to define these concepts. The terms 'self-sufficiency' and 'self-reliance' are often used interchangeably in everyday discourse. Environmentalists themselves will often use them this way when talking of the ideal of providing for all of one's food and energy needs. However, each term has a specific meaning.

While self-sufficiency is understood as the ability to provide for one's needs without depending on third persons, self-reliance is the ability to identify and mobilise idle resources (Sachs 1986:5). In an urban context, where the use of resources is very high and its flow is complex, self-reliant activity would be essential to the advancement of urban self-sufficiency. Indeed, self-sufficiency would be short-lived without the exchange of resources. As Gutman points out:

[self-reliance strategies] do not imply, in any case, an autarchy but a search for new links which leaves the initiative in the hands of the local community, that is to say, in the hands of the people to whom development must be addressed (Gutman 1986:23).

From this Gutman (1986) argues that merely being the recipient of goods and services does not make one dependent. Dependence means individuals become passive recipients of goods, with no input or participation in the provision of those goods, whereas self-reliance entails the opposite.

This emphasis on self-reliance forms the basis of the localism espoused by environmentalists, which finds expression in forms of grassroots participatory democracy and local economic developments (cf. Coleman 1994), such as small cooperative enterprises and alternative local currencies like as the Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS) (Lang 1994). Localism, however, often implies that environmentalists also espouse a commonly held notion of community as a group of people whose movement is largely restricted within a specific geographical area, and who are bound by close, intimate ties. Community gardening thus clearly falls within the scope of the environmentalist economic, ecological and social change objectives.

Community gardening and permaculture in Australia

The term 'permaculture' is a strange word that will at times appear in this thesis. Permaculture is both a set of agricultural techniques and processes and an expression of the self-reliance movement that informs and fuels many contemporary Australian community gardens. Permaculture is coined from the words 'permanent' and 'agriculture'. Permaculture is a holistic approach to sustainable food production. It integrates gardening practices aimed at sustainable food production with built environments and human activity, but goes further to envision an organisation of people to enhance its aims of sustainable food production. Mollison (1988), one of its creators, defines permaculture design as "a system of assembling conceptual, material, and strategic components in a pattern which functions to benefit life in all its forms. It seeks to provide a sustainable and secure place for living things on this earth" (1988:36).

Permaculture was conceived in Tasmania by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the mid-1970s. Since then it has grown into a grass-roots movement that has spread to over 50 countries. It is no coincidence that permaculture was born and flourished within the social and cultural milieu of the counter-culture. It is part of the broad environmental concern that rose in the 1960s, but it became also associated with the communitarian ideals of the rural communes that were established along the coast of New South Wales (cf. Munro-Clark 1986). Thus, while permaculture purports to provide solutions to food production problems, it also lends itself as a tool used to establish alternative social, political and economic forms.

The permaculture movement has been particularly instrumental in promoting community gardens in Australia as a form of self-reliance. In fact a number of Australian community gardens subscribe to permaculture principles and practices (cf. Phillips 1996). Community gardens emerged in Australia only in the past two decades. The first community gardens emerged in Melbourne around 1977 (Eliot 1983). Now there are 38 community gardens present in all Australian capital cities, excluding Darwin, and in some regional centres (Phillips 1996). Only recently community gardens and city farms have formed a national network.

It is perhaps because of the newness and small presence of community gardeners in Australia that no sociological or even anthropological studies in this field have been carried out. Some demographic data from a general survey were published in the Australian city farms, community gardens, and enterprise centres inventory (Phillips 1996), arising from networking efforts. Phillips states that:

survey data indicated that site users predominated in the under 20 and 20-40 age bracket, though this varied considerably between location and focus of activities of each centre. On average, slightly more than half the site users were female (~60%) (Phillips 1996:3).

Unfortunately, Phillips provides no details about the survey methodology and, more importantly, he does not shed any light as to the reasons for the abrupt appearance of community gardening in Australia.

Organisation of the thesis

This thesis is organised as follows. Chapter Two discusses more fully community gardening and seeks to explore and reinforce the theoretical links between community gardening, consumption and environmental concern. It argues that new research needs to focus on the link between reported community gardening benefits, the 'micro' level of community garden interaction and the social and cultural milieu, which impacts on community garden groups and their development.

Chapter Three describes the geographical site of Northey Street City Farm, situated in Brisbane, where most community gardening related activities take place, and its surrounding urban environment.

Chapter Four outlines the research methods employed for this thesis, namely, structured interviewing, participant observation methods, and Strauss and Corbin's (1990) qualitative analysis method known as 'grounded theory'.

The findings obtained from the analysis of the interview transcripts and from participant observation are presented in Chapter Five. The findings show that the gardeners were motivated to continually frequent Northey Street City Farm because gardening both satisfied their emotional need to form ties with others and because of ideologically motivated hopes. Indeed, both emotion and ideology were a recurring theme. The material benefits obtained from the garden were not, in themselves, sufficient to motivate the majority of respondents to keep on frequenting City Farm. Nevertheless, gardeners also moved inter-city or inter-state when labour market jobs became available, so that they could participate in the cash economy. This poses a significant issue for the development of City Farm.

The findings also show that differences in ideologies, which affected the respondents' conceptualisation of the decision-making process, were related to their relationship to other social institutions and to cultural practices that were antithetical to those respondents' ideology.

Similarly the respondents' food production and consumption practices and their celebrations of different Earth cycles reflected their sense of group feeling, identity and their broadly shared environmental ideology, particularly as a strategy for distinguishing the City Farm group from other dominant social and ideological practices. However, not all respondents shared the same views of these celebrations or attributed them the same importance, while non-City Farm food consumption practices were also subject to the dictates of limited personal and group finances and convenience.

The discussion in Chapter Six shows that the ecological morality found among City Farmers is based on a departure from the modernist morality. This morality, however, is grounded within emotionally based social relations and finds its practical application in the particular spatial and temporal context of City Farm. In this respect, the middle classes from which this ecological morality originated assume a less prominent role as groups, such as the City Farmers, and appropriate their morality in their particular context.

The discussion shows also that the ideological variations found in City Farm are based on internal contradictions of the environmental philosophy, which is founded both on historical projectivism that originates from modernism and on an oppositional morality that originates from the puissance of the masses (Maffesoli 1996), that is, a 'will to survive' that springs from the emotional bases of life.

The City Farmers' morality also exists within a wider social and political context. The City Farmers' 'economic localism', which aims to achieve greater local self-reliance, expresses and addresses their ecological and social concerns about the impacts of production and consumption, which are increasingly becoming interconnected through the globalization of capital. Spatial and temporal dimensions also provide a context for the expression the City Farmers' economic localism, that is, they partially express the City Farmers' goals though a spatial juxtaposition of 'private' and 'public', 'rural' and 'urban' activities. However, local self-reliance is hindered by the individual gardeners' dependence on the labour market for cash and the consumer market to satisfy their need for goods and services, which they can afford and easily access.

In Chapter Six I argue that fairs and particularly feasts are strategies of consumption used by City Farmers to distinguish themselves from the dominant culture; to reinforce the symbolic links between nature and the culture of the City Farm group; and to include other groups and individuals who may share with City Farmers a similar ideology or ties of affinity through commensality, that is, the sharing of food.

Chapter Seven summarises the main issues and argues that the planning for development of City Farm should ground the integration of the household, City Farm and social networks in the daily habits of the members of these groups.




Sociological research on community gardening in industrialised countries as a form of urban agriculture is very limited. In this chapter I will review the sociological and anthropological research on community gardening, which focuses mainly on social interactions and attitudes at the micro level. Curran (1993), Patel (1991) and Landman (1993) explore the community garden participants, perceived benefits obtained from community gardening involvement. Jamison (1985) also explores the perceived benefits of community gardening and the organisational culture of community gardens and their relationship to bureaucratic structures. Shmelzkopf (1996) goes a little further by providing some insight into the community garden 'politics' of land tenure at the municipal level. I will point to the necessity to link 'micro' level social interaction in community gardens to the wider or 'macro' social structures and cultural dynamics. This is a consideration which none of the research on community gardening has yet attempted.

The literature directly and indirectly shows that the consumption of public goods and services is a site of conflicting agendas between community gardening groups, bureaucracies and private enterprise. However, our understanding of the role that consumption plays between these groups and within community garden groups is limited by the individualistic approach of both the current community gardening research and of sociology itself. In turn, this hinders our understanding of the link between, 'micro' and 'macro' structures mentioned above. Therefore, I will use the notion of consumption to bridge the gap between 'micro' and 'macro' levels of analysis by looking at Australian food self-provisioning, and the accompanying changes in social identity.

Finally, I will place consumption in a more theoretically central position to counter-balance sociology's traditional emphasis on production as an analytical starting point. The community gardening literature raises questions about the social position of community gardeners as producers and consumers of material resources in relation to citizenship, class and culture, capital, and the ecological consequences of consumption which are yet to be answered satisfactorily.

Community gardening in the United States

The research agenda on community gardening has been strongly influenced by the literature produced by community garden organisers who claim that community gardening improves community integration and psychological wellbeing, provides food, supplements income, and helps the environment (Curran 1993). In the little research on community gardening, gardeners also make these claims about themselves and their impact on the environment. For instance, Washington community gardeners viewed being in touch with nature, gaining skills, meeting new people, and networking with garden friends as therapy and as beneficial effects of community gardening (Landman 1993:104-105). To these benefits Newark gardeners added self-sufficiency, fresh food and improved neighbourhood (Patel 1991). In the low-income area of Loisaida, in New York City, the safety provided by its 75 community gardens was also perceived as a benefit (Shmelzkopf 1996).

Because of the influence of community garden organisers' claims on the research agenda, Curran (1993) makes a point of distinguishing between the benefits perceived by community gardeners, and those perceived by the community garden organisers. From 25 interviews with community gardeners from Central City (a pseudonym for a New Jersey city) Curran (1993) found that the most frequently mentioned benefits were psychological and personal. Monetary benefits also rated highly, closely followed by benefits from interacting with other gardeners. Benefits from the consumption of garden food preceded benefits to the community, while the image improvement of the low-income neighbourhood through the community gardens was the least important. Notably, Curran (1993) found that community garden organisers believed that community gardens improved the environment, benefited the wider community, and led to political empowerment, while community gardeners emphasised personal and psychological benefits, but never environmental benefits or political effects. Although both groups agreed to some extent on the beneficial effects on income and food consumption, gardeners did not seem to share the same environmental ideology as the organisers.

Factors such as employment, place of residence, gender and length of residence were found to significantly affect Losaida's and Central City gardeners' experience of community garden benefits. For instance, residents of 'projects' and long-term residents were able to appreciate the aesthetic improvements and the increased safety to their residential areas (Curran 1993), and in Loisaida young impoverished mothers were able to carry out a number of domestic chores while looking after their children (Shmelzkopf 1996:373).

This research, and Curran's (1993) in particular, clearly indicates that the benefits obtained from gardening provide a powerful motivator to participate in community gardening. Nevertheless, the research focus on the 'micro' level of perceived individual benefits has theoretical implications. This is because the claims of the community garden organisers are taken as the starting point of research and the gardeners are treated, in effect, as consumers of community gardening resources. Consequently, through the initial research focus on individual benefits, the common assumption that consumption is a purely individualistic act is implicitly taken on board.

Jamison's (1985) research also shares with others a 'micro' focus. However, he places the individual perception of benefits within the context of the organisational culture and the cultural meanings of community gardening. He compares the urban gardens run by the non-government organisers of the community garden movement and those run by government authorities of the local city council's departments (these are called agencies in the USA). Jamison (1985) argues that the different cultural meanings attributed to community gardening by these two groups influence resource mobilisation, the community gardens' social and organisational structures, and spatial layout of community gardens. He argues also that they were the cause of conflict between movement organisers and government bureaucrats.

The community garden organisers and government authorities in Jamison's (1985) research attributed, respectively, collectivist and individualist meanings to the perceived benefits and improvements derived from community gardening; namely, increased self-confidence, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and co-operation, egalitarianism, a sense of democracy, and improved neighbourhoods and communities. The community garden movement organisers attributed these benefits to group work and action, and a commitment to group goals, whereas the government community garden managers thought they derived from individual effort, changes in personal attitude, increased individual involvement and good citizenship.

Collectivist and individualist ideas also shaped the gardeners' roles, rules, and their use of space. Government authorities enforced an individualist ideology through the subdivision of the urban gardens into separate allotments for which rent-paying gardeners were responsible. In turn, gardening rules, like private property laws, enforced a rational equality aimed at achieving individual self-reliance and self-sufficiency. The opposite was true for community gardens run by movement organisers. The garden space was designed and managed communally. Equality and co-operation, the result of group participation, were spatially crystallised in the integration of common areas within the garden plots, while rules, at times informal at smaller sites, and more explicit at larger sites, were generally concerned with appropriate organic gardening techniques. Consequently the role of the gardener was not that of client but of a full group member (Jamison 1985: 483-484).

Despite the role of collectivist gardeners as members, community garden organisers are engaged, on behalf of the gardeners, with those bureaucracies that control public goods, such as land access, monetary grants, water, and gardening tools (Jamison 1985). Yet, while emphasising the impact of culture and ideology on community gardeners' organisational structures, it still does not draw stronger links between the ideological and cultural differences of these groups to the wider social structures and culture that constitute their context. As Jamison's (1985) research shows, the emphasis placed on benefits by community garden movement organisers betrays their dependence on government authorities for resources (with the accompanying 'red tape'), particularly land tenure, and this has been found to be a source of conflict between the two groups (Jamison 1985). In Loisaida, this contrast is even more marked with the conflict over land access between gardeners, New York City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which is pressured to find land for low-income housing, and private land developers (Schmelzkpof 1996). In this case the link between individual and group benefits, and the consumption of public goods, particularly land access, in the wider context of capitalist social relations, becomes particularly sharp where community gardeners are also potential beneficiaries of low-income housing. Again, if community gardeners and their organisers are indeed consumers of community gardening goods and of public goods and services, contradictory positions such as those outlined above provide avenues for exploring the links between small community garden groups, larger social structures and their cultural milieu.

The client-ship versus membership issue raised by Jamison's (1985) study indicates precisely the importance of consumption for community gardening. Collectivist community gardens organised by non-government movement organisers who emphasised food self-sufficiency, environmental benefits and democratic participation, indirectly addressed dissatisfaction with modern forms of consumption that negatively impact on the environment, and with public participation which increasingly rests on the ability to consume. However, one must also keep in mind that not all gardeners across the board shared the organisers' commitment to ecologically responsible consumption. Indeed some seemed quite happy to enjoy the benefits of social interaction (Curran 1993).

Clearly, consumption constitutes a significant but unexplored part of the cultural common ground of community garden groups, bureaucracies and environmentalism. We must then tie community gardening to broader social structures and cultural practices, rather than merely to individualistic or economic activity if we are to gain a fuller sociological understanding of community gardening and its future directions. Given that the research here proposed would be carried out in Australia, the next section considers consumption and community gardening in the Australian context.

Australian urban peasants and community gardeners

While the economic conditions of pre-World War II Australia made urban backyard food production among the working classes both possible and economically desirable, even necessary, the emergence of community gardens in Australia seems to be both unnecessary and undesirable, given that presently most of consumer goods can be easily obtained from commercial outlets. Yet, community gardening as a social phenomenon exists, alongside other environmentally oriented groups, despite the dominant culture of consumerism.

This section considers how the current interest in self-reliance among some is part of a response, albeit small, to the social, cultural, and economic circumstances that have developed in the context of the Australian corporate economy and culture. In this regard we must account for the role of environmentalism, with its middle class cultural origins and political bases, which seems to play a significant part in the social and organisational life of community gardens. Furthermore, since consumption is intimately tied to the middle class's sense of identity, the links between community gardening and consumption possibly assume deeper levels of meaning.

In Australia, pre-World War II urban food self-provisioning, principally a working class activity was widespread (Mullins 1981a, 1981b, 1995). The suburban yard was used for animal and vegetable food production and the household generally was a non-capitalist locus of production. The various activities necessary for backyard food production were time intensive but also "extensive - in the sense that the activities covered a great range of goods and services - and highly skilled - in the sense that considerable ability was demanded. And it was a labour which women largely provided" (Mullins and Kynaston 1998:4-5).

The post-World War II shift from mercantile to corporate capitalism meant a shift from household self-provisioning to the mass consumption of goods and services largely provided by suburban shopping malls and other retail outlets. In other words, the household became a site of consumption rather than production. Also, the identity of local social networks shifted from "occupational community... a dense and localised system of kinship, friendship and neighbour relations" (Mullins 1981b:37), to a community identity occasionally mobilised around issues of consumption (Mullins 1987), and heavily reliant on the cash economy as a means of satisfying consumer wants (Mullins and Kynaston 1998). Significantly, at a time when consumption increasingly resembled middle class consumption patterns (Gabriel and Lang 1995), environmentalism rose as a response to the ecological impacts and social failures of post-war modernisation. Its analysis pointed to the links between modern consumption, environmental degradation and a loss of a 'sense of community' as part of a general problem with modernity. The renewed interest in self-sufficiency and self-reliance sprung from an intersection between these concerns and the counterculture movement of the 1960s, which drew on a wide range of commune traditions (Eder 1990). In the late 1970s community gardens sprung up in Australia, reflecting concerns with community and ecology as part of a wider environmental movement.

Indeed, virtually all of the Australian community gardens aim to practice organic growing methods, provide some form of environmental education, and hope to rekindle a sense of community (Phillips 1996). This is due to some extent to the more organised efforts of the permaculture movement. Unlike the earlier Australian urban peasantry, community gardeners who follow permaculture or similar environmental aims, consciously strive towards ecologically sound food growing practices and self-reliance. This is part of a project to build alternative social and economic structures based on an ecological ethic (Mollison 1988). Within this ecological vision, community gardens seem to be particularly important, as they provide a physical setting where a range of social and economic factors potentially intersect to make such an alternative vision more tangible.

In Australia popular alternative gardening-type magazines such as Permaculture International Journal, Grass-roots and Earth Garden ensued to articulate the visions and experiences of backyard and community gardeners. Particularly in the case of Permaculture International Journal, the emphasis is on intentional self-reliance aimed at challenging the dependence on the formal market economy, through, for instance, various bartering or cashless economies, and at providing ecologically sustainable alternatives and social practices based around participatory democracy principles. This constitutes a significant departure from self-provisioning as a purely economic necessity.

Clearly, this self-reliance movement, of which Australian community gardeners are a part, is attempting to address issues of consumption through an environmentalist framework. Nevertheless, there is no evidence, as yet, of the extent to which all community gardeners share the environmentalist ideology, although this is the impression one gets from the popular self-reliance literature, and by organisations such as the Australian Community Gardens and City Farms Network. As the American examples indicate, environmental concern was not one of the main motivating factors for some community gardeners to garden, but rather the social and economic benefits, and healthy organically grown food. This may also apply to Australian community gardeners.

Perhaps the reason for this relative indifference to ecological benefits of the gardeners studied by Curran (1993) lies in class differences between community gardeners and their organisers. As Shmeltzkopf (1996) noticed, New York garden organisers were generally white, middle class and well educated. Indeed, contemporary environmentalism finds its cultural origins and political support bases in the middle class, which derives its identity from, among other things, the consumption of leisure activities in natural settings (Eder 1990). Middle class cultural habits may be a significant link between ideas about the environment, consumption and larger social and economic structures. However, while the leadership to the community gardening movement in Australia may be middle class, it would be erroneous to project those environmental aspirations informed by middle class ways of perceiving and interacting with the world on to the experiences of community gardeners in general and their motivations for gardening. It is therefore necessary to further explore links between the political economy and the commonly accepted meanings and political uses of consumption, in order to better define the context of the perceptions, practices and ultimate goals of community gardeners and their leadership.

Consumption and community gardening

The review of the research literature in the USA and the overview of Australian interest in self-reliance reveal that consumption is a central component in the life-world of community gardeners. Nevertheless, sociological attention to consumption on its own merit is only recent. This section provides an analysis of community gardening, and its implications for the sociological problematic of consumption.

The research focus on community gardening benefits casts dominant assumptions about consumption on community gardeners. Gardeners are presented by researchers, particularly Curran (1993) and Patel (1991), as individual consumers of community gardening resources. This narrow focus leads to interpreting community gardening as a leisure activity motivated by utilitarian considerations, such as social interaction and income supplementation, but disembedded from political and cultural contexts. To the contrary, Jamison's (1985) and Shmelzkopf's (1996) research showed that conflicting views about the 'citizen as consumer' versus the 'citizen as participant' were underlying different approaches taken by community gardeners and their government and non-government organisers.

Collective community gardeners viewed gardening as enhancing localised and democratic community control over their use of resources. Their emphasis on 'good citizenship' in terms of collective membership, could indicate dissatisfaction with citizenship based on individual consumption. This became particularly evident when they collided with government authorities' definitions of gardeners as consumers of public goods, and of community gardening as a leisure activity (Jamison 1985:485). This view reinforced the increasingly dominant idea and practice of the citizen as consumer, and is therefore "unencumbered by social responsibilities and duties, free of the obligation to account for [...] preferences and choices" (Gabriel and Lang 1995:175). The collective gardeners' opposition to this view was exemplified by their opposition to pesticide use: their idea of 'good citizenship' rested upon accepting moral responsibility for one's choices, their implication and meaning (Gabriel and Lang 1995:174).

However, the social position of community gardeners within the political economy field is not as (seemingly) unambiguous as their ideological position towards citizenship. Schmelzkpof's (1996) research showed that Loisaida community gardeners were in the position of losing their gardens to developers, while potentially benefiting from low-cost housing developments. This situation is perhaps a particular instance of the contradictory position in which people in their roles as consumers and producers are unwittingly placed. As Miller (1995:9) argues consumption is a process involving not mere interests, but a contradictory dialectic between consumers, and between local and global market forces. He argues that in both Third and First World nations:

... there is an increasingly common scenario in which the primary victim of capitalism and the primary beneficiary may be one and the same person: that is the housewife in her other guise as worker or unemployed. This would be the case where the political and economic priorities that are being 'voted' for by careful shopping act to undermine the demands of the same shopper in bidding for higher wages or a secure job (Miller 1995:9-10).

Clearly, such a scenario also applies to the bind that the Loisaida community gardeners find themselves in. On the one hand they benefit from the use of vacant land, but on the other that very land is their potential site for low-cost housing on which they are increasingly becoming dependent as available land is used up.

Despite this scenario, the moral dimensions addressed through consumption by environmentally aware community gardeners provide new possibilities of moving beyond this stalemate. Some environmentalists would tend to oppose all consumption because of its negative ecological impacts (Gabriel and Lang 1995) and its association with an economic system they consider existentially inauthentic and shallow. On the contrary, consumption can be used to express those moral and existential concerns that have been marginalised by modernism, and consequently alternative identities and worldviews. As Miller argues, the greater diversity of identities afforded by consumption can also provide new avenues to egalitarianism:

There is a clear preference for consumers to be able autonomously to employ their resources for the self-construction of their individual and social identity, rendering their place of work as no more than a necessary constraint created by their obligation to earn a living. It is therefore equality at the point of access to resources for the self-construction of consumers that becomes the proper point of arbitration of egalitarian moralities. Of course the end point may not be equal as consumers dispose of resources for better or for worse (Miller 1995:42).

Thus, while better accessibility to mass consumables may afford a modicum of egalitarianism, consumables may ultimately be used as 'symbolic capital' to draw distinctions, not only between economic classes, but also between social and cultural groups (Bourdieu 1984). In this respect, while community gardeners may create egalitarian identities and cultural practices, they may also form cultures that exclude those in the 'mainstream'.

An understanding of the relationship between identities and moralities that are reflected by the practices of consumption is better served by an approach that also accounts for the underlying emotional bases of group life, rather than just on ideological representations. Indeed, having noted a shift from the previous rational era of "individuation and separation [to the present] empathetic period¼ marked by the lack of differentiation, the 'loss' in a collective subject: in other words¼ neo-tribalism" (Maffesoli 1996:11), that is, the individual's membership of a multitude of affinity-based groups of on temporary bases, Maffesoli (1996) argues that the relationship between groups and moralities is based on 'sociality'. In this instance sociality is based on shared emotions, both harmonious and conflictual, which 'glue together' members of a group. This sociality is an expression of an 'underground centrality' or puissance (Maffesoli 1996), that is, a 'will to live' or 'will to survive'. This is in contrast to power (pouvior), that is, the political and rational modes of social control, because it expresses itself in being-together for its own sake. That is, it does not reflect any finality or the historical projects of the proletariat or of the bourgeoisie, who have been turned into the subjects of History. In this regard Maffesoli clearly departs from Miller's (1995) 'housewife'/consumer as the new subject of History.

Moreover, sociality is directly relevant to community gardens as spaces because it necessarily translates into informal uses of space that allow the 'secret' expression of the non-rational and of the illicit ("lost space, the agora, the underground passage, porticos, patios, and so on" [Maffesoli 1996:37]). Indeed, the establishment of many community gardens on vacant plots or 'wasteland' seems to be a crystallisation of the marginality of community gardening activities in relation to the dominant social and economic activities.

Because consumption presents us with such complex interplay of social positions and possibilities Miller (1995) appropriately suggests that new research on consumption should intrude into the world of the consumer, whilst avoiding "positivistic equation testing or post-modern projections" (1995:53). Consequently, such intrusion should also explore the spatial and temporal dimensions of consumption, particularly the meanings of those places in which consumption activity occurs, and their contribution to the constitution of identities. Miller (1995) submits that the household is perhaps the prime example of a site of consumption where such intrusive research could occur, but because of the economistic assumption that the household is one undifferentiated consumption unit, intra-household processes of consumption are often ignored. Thus, household consumption activities such as 'dining out' are ignored because they blur the boundaries of household and non-household consumption, and they call into play the processes involved in consumption. Therefore, consumption activities that involve place, movement, time constraints, income, and the creation of meanings of goods and services, would also warrant attention when researching community gardens as sites of consumption. That is, community garden groups not only consume public goods, but may also consume goods from the household as community gardeners, as well as goods produced at the community garden as members of that same household. To these research foci one should also add the role of bureaucracies or other institutions which provide public goods.

In conclusion, community gardening may seem another of many 'leisure' activities for very few people, and thus of little relevance to problems that perturb governments and policy makers. But, when viewed within the broader context of the development of capitalist social relations, the culture of consumption, and the rise of environmentalism, community gardening may be one way in which small groups of people try to redefine consumption by addressing those social, ecological and moral issues ignored by the consumer ideology of 'more is better'. The expansion of research in this area of inquiry will depend on an understanding of consumption that includes the human longing for sociality.




The purpose of this chapter is to outline the methods used in this research, and justify their use in light of the research aims. The lack of a substantial body of sociological literature on community gardens made it desirable to take an exploratory qualitative approach to this research. Thus, the structured interview was chosen as the principal method for data gathering. Data obtained from interviews were supplemented by participant observation. Both interviewing and participant observation were undertaken over a total period of nine months, between the months of June and November 1997, and February to April 1998. Participant observation and most interviews were undertaken during the set gardening days of Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday of every week at the Northey Street City Farm site. The analysis of the data follows 'grounded theory' as outlined by Strauss and Corbin (1990).


Interviewing, complemented by participant observation, was one method adopted for data gathering. Initially I constructed a structured interview after asking one of the most involved gardeners some general questions about City Farm and after having engaged in some participant observation. This process, together with my theoretical focus, allowed me to establish the general orientation of the structured interview.

Minichiello et al. (1995) place three different types of interviews on a continuum: structured and unstructured interviews being at the extremes ends with semi-structured or in-depth interviews in the middle of the continuum. Although I chose a structured interview format, in that the questions were carefully worded and followed a set order, during the interview I engaged in some discussion by 'funnelling' questions, that is, by asking for more detail about certain aspects of the respondents' answers (Minichiello et al. 1995:84). Thus, even if structured, my interviews were closer to semi-structured interviewing because of the 'funnelling' process.

I interviewed a total of ten City Farm gardeners. Of these seven were male and three were female. Six out of ten interviews were conducted at a barbecue area near City Farm, one was on City Farm grounds, while three interviews were conducted in-doors: one at my own place of residence, one at a respondent's place of residence, and the last at the respondent's workplace. Besides taking notes on paper, the interviews were tape-recorded and later transcribed using a word processor (see the sampling methodology section below for more detail).

The interview schedule was structured in four sections. The first consisted of questions about the involvement of the respondent in City Farm's activities and in other community gardens. Questions about community garden-related food consumption and production activities, and social activities, constituted the second section of the interview schedule. The third section consisted of questions about the respondent's food consumption practices, while the fourth concluded with questions about the respondent's social characteristics. Most questions were open-ended, although some were preceded by 'yes-no' questions.

Some questions, such as those regarding the consumption of food, had multiple choice answers. After constructing the interview schedule I interviewed ten gardeners between the months of October 1997 and February 1998.

Participant observation

Participant observation was used in conjunction with interviewing, since it enriched the data that I needed. I was an active participant in physical gardening activities, spoke with the gardeners during gardening and at tea breaks, and participated in one three-monthly planning meeting and one monthly committee meeting. I also helped cook some rice for one of the equinox feasts, and I attended three equinox feasts, the Water for Wildlife Festival and the Green Fair, as they played a significant social and cultural role in the life of Northey Street City Farm.

Active participation allowed me to form a general idea not only about the different activities in which the City Farm group was involved, but also an understanding of the culture of the group and the other groups the gardeners came in contact with (cf. Spradley 1980). Ultimately, because of some initial observations, I could formulate some crucial questions for the interview schedule that would not have been asked had I only relied on the theoretical gaps that I found in the literature.

Participant observation was limited to the descriptive level as outlined by Spradley (1980). 'Descriptive observations' consist of broad "question-observations" that generally answer the question, "What is going on here?" (Spradley 1980:73). More detailed observations could have been carried out, but they would have been too time-consuming as there already was an ample amount of data provided by the interviews.


The total number of individuals I counted working at City Farm through participant observation was 25, of whom 12 were female and 13 were male. Of ten gardeners who I interviewed, seven were male and three were female. Because of the limited number of gardeners present at City Farm I employed a 'snowball sample', that is, after having interviewed the first gardener I asked him/her to suggest other gardeners who would possibly be interested in participating in an interview. This sampling method is deemed appropriate to this study, as it is well suited for the study of groups that have common social characteristics (cf. Neuman 1994).

Data analysis

The data obtained by the interviews were qualitative and quantitative. The interview data were analysed using the method described by Strauss and Corbin's (1990) 'grounded theory'. This method allows for themes and categories to emerge from the 'ground up' when coding interview transcripts. Grounded theory consists of three coding stages (Strauss and Corbin 1990): the first is the open coding stage, where the researcher assigns labels or 'codes' to concepts which are then synthesised into categories, and then these into subcategories and their dimensions (for example, frequency, extent and duration). The second coding stage, 'axial coding', allows the researcher to search for causal and intervening conditions, interaction strategies, consequences and processes, and finally to identify and compare clusters of themes and core themes. Finally, in the 'selective coding' stage, incidents coming under the open coding categories are constantly compared and contrasted around the core themes. This effectively constitutes the final analysis of the data.

Due to the small size of the sample this process was executed without the aid of qualitative analysis computer software such as NUDIST. Basic descriptive statistics used in this thesis consisted of percentages. They described respondent characteristics such as age, gender, ethnic background, residential status, income, education, employment status, marital status, religious affiliation, and membership of other groups.

Justification of research methodology

This exploratory study was deemed the most appropriate approach because community gardening as a social activity is a new area of sociological interest and because no research on community gardening in the Australian context exists. Exploratory research allows for new or unexpected information to emerge from the data collection, unlike positivistic research which begins from a priori assumptions about the social world, and then proceeds to generate and test hypotheses. In this research there were no hypotheses to test, but there were areas of interest, specifically the benefits and challenges of community gardening and the role of food consumption in the life the gardeners.

However, a balance was needed between openness to new data and making the scope of the research manageable within reasonable time limits. Thus, participant observation and informal interviews were necessary to focus the questions in the structured interviews to be conducted. The interviews were structured to the extent that they focused on particular issues, such as consumption practices and the social and ethical dimensions of community gardening, but the open questions and 'funnelling' allowed sufficient scope for the interviewer and the respondent to explore significant experiences in community gardening.

This approach works towards addressing some of the weaknesses characteristic of structured interviewing, namely, its pretension to positivistic objectivity, where the interviewer assumes a detached position and is presumably in control of the entire process. It is indeed necessary to be flexible, as respondents may attribute different meanings to words or have different understandings of the interview questions. For instance, when asked if there were any negative aspects to community gardening, one respondent preferred to see 'challenges' rather than problems.

Participant observation was appropriate for two main reasons. Firstly, it provides specific information about the gardeners' activities that could not have been collected by other methods. Subsequently, participant observation made it possible to relate theoretical objectives to those City Farm activities that may have been of interest, and thus narrowing the scope of the interview questions. Secondly, because those gardening at Northey Street City Farm were easily identifiable, participant observation provided the opportunity to gather more data about the group's culture than would have been possible in another setting. Of course one of the main weaknesses of participant observation is the observer may miss out on important data, or on data that is not manifest through observation. This is why interviews were crucial for collecting more specific data.

'Grounded theory' was deemed the most appropriate method of data analysis, as it allowed for the emergence of themes that were not covered by the literature. However, while no new 'theories' were uncovered, this method allowed for a clearer understanding of the relationship between the themes that emerged and how these relate to the wider social and cultural environment.

Difficulties and constraints

The total number of City Farm gardeners I was able to count was 25. Whilst City Farm was frequented by a small core group of gardeners, most came less frequently while some had left Brisbane permanently or temporarily. As the ten gardeners I interviewed were among the more active members of City Farm, it may be argued that the research ignored the views of the more marginal members; those who come less often and are less involved. However, given that my sample constitutes 40% of the all those who I observed gardening at City Farm, the findings of the research may still constitute a fair representation of the views and culture of the gardeners of City Farm.

Another sampling concern is the low representation of female respondents. However, the three female gardeners I interviewed approximate, as a sample, the total 'population' of female gardeners, which constituted 44% of the 25 gardeners I had counted.


Respondents were assured, at the beginning of each interview, that the contents of the interviews were to be known only to myself and my supervisor, Assoc. Prof. Patrick Mullins. For this reason all names of City Farmers quoted below are pseudonyms. Furthermore, the smallness of the sample made it necessary to collapse some personal characteristic data to preserve anonymity. Likewise, comparisons of some data, particularly involving the female respondents were not made, as these too might compromise the respondents' anonymity.

Role of the researcher

When I first presented myself I made it clear that I was at City Farm to carry out research. Initially there was some concern that my research activities would interfere with the everyday gardening activities, subtracting work time from the garden, so I offered to participate in gardening activities. I also specified that I held sympathies for the aims of sustainable agriculture and that I hoped my research would contribute to the overall aims of City Farm and community gardening in general.




The purpose of this chapter is to describe the geographical surroundings and the spatial layout of Northey Street City Farm.

Geographical characteristics

Northey Street City Farm is located on the corner of Northey and Victoria Streets, in the northern Brisbane suburb of Windsor. City Farm lies within the confines of Downey Park, which is bound to the south by the Enoggera Creek. This is a flood prone area as the disastrous 1974 floods had proved (Sunday Mail, 27 January, 1974).

The land on which City Farm is located belongs to the Brisbane City Council. The council thus provides water, some of the tools and two mobile tool sheds. The gardeners themselves, the public and small businesses donate other materials, such as newspapers, wood, lawn-clippings, and hardware.

The suburb of Windsor is part of an area gazetted by the Queensland government since 1972 for the construction of the Northern Freeway. Although the freeway was never built, the official plan still exists and a freeway cutting through Windsor may be still built in the future (Mullins and West 1998).

City Farm covers an area of over one hectare and includes a large zone used for re-vegetation and accumulation of compost materials. Excluding this area, the most frequented and cultivated area covers a space of approximately 7,650 m3. Of this, approximately 630 m3 are dedicated to growing vegetables and some fruit (see Photograph 1).

The layout of Northey Street City Farm

City Farm is dominated by two large mango trees: one at the approximate centre, under which the gardeners take their tea breaks together, and one to the south, from which hangs a swing. Near the centre there are two tool sheds, a community notice board and two blackboards used for messages and lists of things to do (see Photograph 2). Behind the sheds four or five chicken are held in a chicken pen.

The main area for food cultivation is on the south-west corner of City Farm. It includes a demonstration 'backyard' garden, that is, an area set up to resemble a suburban backyard, complete with a rotating clothesline and patches of alternative groundcover lawn and food, to show how food could be grown in an urban environment (see Photograph 3). Near this area are six compost piles set up to follow a rotational method.

On the north-western side of City Farm there are a dry composting toilet, that is, a toilet that does not use water but uses earthworms to break down human faeces, and a plant nursery. Besides the main activity area, as mentioned above, the area adjacent to the Enoggera Creek area is also used by the gardeners as a re-vegetation zone (see Map 1). This layout reflects the permaculture notion of zones of use, that is, "a series of concentric circles, the innermost circle being the area we visit most frequently and which we manage most intensively. Zones of use are basic to conservation of energy and on site" (Mollison 1988:49). On Map 1 these zones are indicated by roman numerals.




This chapter will briefly outline the demographic characteristics of the respondents. It will then show how a combination of emotion and ideology affects other activities of the respondents, particularly, decision-making and their City Farm and household consumption activities. An examination of the significance of fairs and feasts will show their importance as strategies used to define a collective identity grounded in a temporal and spatial context. The concluding remarks will draw comparisons between this and previous research, and highlight the problematic areas which the findings from this research have highlighted.

The Northey Street City Farm gardeners

The identification of a precise number of gardeners attending City Farm was difficult. The number of city Farm attendants was not provided on the Northey Street City Farm World Wide Web site that the City Farmers have created (see Table 1). Even though there were three common gardening days with set times, namely, Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., not all gardeners attended with the same frequency. Also, some had left for other cities or for overseas. However, the number of City Farm gardeners that I was able to count was 25, of whom 12 were female and 13 were male.

The ages of the respondents ranged from 25 to 54 years. Four respondents were aged between 25 to 39 years, while another four were in the 45 to 49 age cohort.

The remaining two were aged between 50 and 54 years. Australia was the birthplace of eight respondents, while the remaining two were born overseas, although these immigrated at a very young age. Eight respondents identified with an Anglo-Celtic background, while the remaining two were from other ethnic backgrounds. Seven had married and/or had de-facto partners at some time, while three had never married. Five of the respondents, including those without a partner, had children. Of those respondents, three still had children living at home.

Generally, respondents were well educated. Eight had completed tertiary studies. The remaining two were female respondents who had been involved in studies higher than junior level. Despite this high level of education, only four respondents were employed at the time of the interviews, while the remaining six were unemployed. Of the latter, five had been unemployed for over 2 years. Nevertheless, one self-described unemployed respondent was casually employed on the basis of volunteer work for payment in kind or small amounts of cash.

Despite the high unemployment rate, only four respondents, all male, received some form of Social Security benefit. Three respondents worked part-time, while one was self-employed. Another respondent, who was unemployed, did work occasionally, for payment in kind.

The respondents' personal incomes ranged between $6,001 to $9,000 per annum to $32,001 to $40,000 per annum. However, six respondents had a partner and this significantly increased the amount of disposable income. The household incomes of five respondents who volunteered information about their combined disposable income ranged between $20,001 to $22,000 per annum and $80,001 to $90,000 per annum. The combined disposable income may have counteracted the relative income disadvantages of those respondents who were working part-time or were unemployed, while perhaps also increasing the time respondents dedicated to City Farm activities.

The respondents' length of residence in Brisbane was relatively long. Five of the respondents have been residing in Brisbane for 14 years and over, while the other five have been residing in Brisbane between 3 and 5 years. Seven lived in a detached house, two lived in a unit, while one rented a room. Only two respondents were homeowners, while three were paying off a house. Four were renting, while one had other arrangements.

Only two respondents had previous involvement in a community garden before being involved in City Farm. They were involved with other community gardens for 1 and 2 years respectively. Three had been involved in City Farm for 1 year or less, while seven had been involved between, approximately, 1.5 and 4 years. However, the time expended on gardening at City Farm showed that seven respondents worked between 3 and 8 hours per week, while three worked over 1 hour per week.

A look at the distance between the respondents' place of residence and City Farm shows that only a few respondents lived relatively close to City Farm. In fact, only three respondents lived within a 2 kilometre radius of City Farm. Another four respondents live within a 2 to 4 kilometre radius. The remaining three lived within a 4 to 9 kilometre radius from City Farm. The average approximate travel time from their residence to City Farm (based on the respondents' travel time estimates) was 18.1 minutes.

Five respondents had four to six other City Farmers living between the 0 to 2 kilometre radius from their residence, while another two respondents had one to two City Farmers living within that radius. The remaining three respondents had no City Farmers living near them. However, only five respondents spent between 2 and 5 hours per week with other gardeners on non-garden related social activities. Despite this low involvement with other gardeners, all respondents were members of at least one cultural or community organisation, such as local choirs, local welfare groups, parents' groups, environmental organisations, residential action groups, ethnic clubs and amateur or hobby groups. Six respondents were members of, or involved in, at least two or more groups or organisations. Notably, seven respondents were involved in environmental organisations.

This brief profile indicates that those who tend to be attracted to community gardening have tertiary qualifications, are mostly unemployed, and, of those who are employed, most work part-time. Their personal incomes may have been ameliorated when combined with their partner's. The low number of singles in the sample may indicate that City Farm's outreach does not extend to singles as effectively as it might to those individuals with a partner. Overall, the respondents showed a high level of involvement with cultural, community and ideologically oriented organisations, indicating that City Farm is not their only way of satisfying their need to be with others and to be socio-politically involved. The multitude of groups the respondents were involved with also seems to support the idea that social identity is no longer limited to economic classes alone, but that it is fragmented by the individual moving, through space and time, from group to group (cf. Maffesoli 1996).

Emotion and ideology

The data presented here shows that the reasons for participation in community gardening extend beyond the discrete benefits individual gardeners may obtain from gardening. Although a number of findings here replicate the findings of Curran (1993) and Jamison (1985), the relationship between City Farm gardeners and their cultural milieu adds further dimensions to their motivations for gardening. Gardeners at City Farm participate for reasons that were both emotional and ideological.

Underpinning the reasons City Farmers gave for initial and continued involvement in community gardening was an interplay between sociality and ideology, that is, between shared emotions of the group, expressed as a 'sense of belonging', and representations of community and environment. In practical terms participation in the life of the community garden was an essential aspect of sociality. Participation included gardening and related physical activities, formal and informal decision-making processes about the management of the garden, the on-site education of visiting school children, urban bush tucker excursions, grant applications and fairs and feast co-ordinations and preparations, or simply interacting with other gardeners. It is this participation which provided gardeners with a feeling of belonging. Notably, participation in community gardening was deemed to counteract alienation and isolation from others by providing a sense of existential meaning or purpose. However, feelings of alienation and personal purpose are then placed by gardeners within and expressed by the representational frameworks of environmentalism and a broad social justice ideology. These ideologies overlap in their use of the notion of community to express the gardeners' hopes and aims for change in social and ecological practices. But, it seems, they are not totally integrated in practice, as shown by the different decision-making models employed within City Farm, thus affecting its development.

The gardeners said they were motivated to join and participate in City Farm's activities because they satisfied their need for a 'feeling of belonging', a 'feeling of connection', a 'sense of community', and 'sense of place'. The complementary opposite of these needs were feelings of isolation and alienation, from which City Farm seems to have provided respite. Indeed, respondents contrasted the isolation and alienation from other people, to their participation in City Farm activities, which provided them with a sense of purpose and meaning. As Susan said:

You know we suffer from isolation but here at City Farm we feel like we belong to a community and have a really valid role to play, regardless of what that is. It could be just ... digging a hole or something, but that's a valid contribution that's really appreciated. So there's this level of self-confidence I've noticed in people, and that's also developed a lot of skills ...

Thus, a sense of meaning and purpose resulted from communal participation in gardening related activities. However, despite its emotive dimensions, 'community' is also an important notion within the gardeners' representational or ideological frameworks. As Steve said:

the real motivation was a sharing sort of thing, doing it communally ... sharing the ideal basically ... The ideal of, instead of each person being separate and having their own garden, and that ... ownership sort of thing. Right? What appealed to me was the fact that if we can get together like minded people we can co-operate in a community system that works a lot better, basically.

Notably, the gardeners articulated their social and ecological values through the image of the 'rural close-knit community', and contrasted the simpler, non-consumerist lifestyle, of which City Farm was held to be an example, to the urban lifestyle where individuals were thought to be isolated and fearful of each other. The gardeners highlighted their efforts to provide a community that fostered democratic participation, ecologically sustainable practices through self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and reconnection and co-operation with others and with nature, by contrasting the social environment they attributed to City Farm to the consumer lifestyle characterised as aggressive, fast-paced and individualistic. This basically placed the gardeners' ethics, goals and activities in opposition to the consumerist ethic of the dominant social and economic structures.

Furthermore, 'community' was viewed as a tool to achieve social change and ecological sustainability. Gardeners could actively build a sense of community. That is, by placing people and resources together a sense of belonging, connection and place would emerge. However, the relatively remote residential location of the respondents from City Farm did not correspond to the ideal-type of a community as a group of people defined by geographical proximity. Furthermore, there was no evidence, as we shall see below, that City Farmers were food self-reliant in any significant manner. It seems, then, that the role of 'community' talk was to tell a 'moral tale', which was that community gardening participation was an ethical means of overcoming feelings of alienation and physical isolation from others. This was because participants were taking individual responsibility for City Farm and for social change generally.

Despite the general agreement on the value of community as a social change tool and of sustainable agriculture, different accents were placed on City Farm's ultimate goals. Two respondents reported being motivated to participate in City Farm's activities because of its community development aspects, rather than its ecological goals. On the other hand Susan saw that City Farm had limited capacity to meet all people's needs while at the same time working on the primary task which is to work towards ecologically sustainable food production. As she explained:

I think some people think that we're there to satisfy their needs like we're a service, but we're just a group of people who go down there and work. ... Like we're not paid or whatever to be there to ... provide a service to others. We do our best to sort of satisfy what people want from us ... but at the same time I think there's this kind of ... So it's just that thing of meeting people's needs without being drained of our energy to continue the work that we're involved to do. ... But other people like just being down the garden, so it's good that we've got a balance of people to do that, but sometimes we've got ten people to meet all at the one day.

The above quotation indicates that meeting social needs and food production goals are complementary. But it also reveals a tension between the necessary social development imperatives, and the imperative to establish an urban agriculture demonstration site to contribute to overall ecological sustainability.

This tension is further complicated by two respondents' non-utopian views. When asked why he joined City Farm, Paddy responded, "Something to do. People seemed friendly. No sort of ulterior motive ... changing the world or anything like that. We talk about it all the time [...]". Similarly Lyneham replied that one of the positive aspects of City Farm was that there were "no sets of rules, or ideologies or politics or religion or anything. Just fairly simple, straightforward". Like others, both respondents appreciated a lack of hierarchy and rules, but unlike others, they seemed to be motivated only by the need for social interaction. Their non-ideological stance coupled with their anarchistic position indicates an opposition to rational, future-oriented frameworks of action. Yet, these gardeners' own personal involvement in activities related to the political sphere indicate that they are not totally indifferent to social and political issues.

Such indifference to utopian goals is similar to Central City's community gardeners' apparent disinterest with the environmentalism of garden organisers (Curran 1993). However, at City Farm there is no formal demarcation between leaders and followers. Of course there was a leading group, composed in part by the founding members of City Farm. But these, who dedicated more time to the more formal management of City Farm, also gardened; while those who mostly gardened also had opportunity to contribute to more formal activities, such as day to day decision-making and three-monthly planning meetings. Yet such 'indifference' to ideologies or utopias should not be dismissed as anomalous, especially given the blurred boundaries between the gardeners' roles as 'gardener' and 'organiser', and the apparent contradiction between their non-ideological stance and their involvement in non-party political activism. Analytically, it thus seems necessary to focus on such ambiguities if we are to better comprehend the relationship between emotion and ideology as motivators for community gardening. However, an explanation of this apparent anomaly is not possible using theoretical frameworks that either purely focus on the benefits enjoyed by individual community gardeners (Curran 1993) or assume that the same blindly followed ideological dictates (Jamison 1985). It is thus necessary to adopt a framework that accounts for the existential and moral dimensions of social action.

The following section will explore how the interplay of emotion and ideology produced different dichotomous notions of action that underlie the articulation and preferences for different decision-making models.

How shall we produce? Decision-making in the garden

One of the most significant participatory activities that gardeners engaged in was decision-making about the direct and indirect processes of food production, such as deciding what should be grown and precisely where or whether individual gardeners should be paid from City Farm funds ( City Farm funds are obtained mainly through a voluntary membership fee, through the money raised at City Farm's feasts, and, occasionally, through, the Jupiters' Casino Community Benefit Fund.) for specific work. As such, decision-making was significantly affected by the gardeners' experiences of alienation from the political structures invested with decision-making powers. As a result, decisions taken by gardeners tended to favour inclusive and democratic participation of all gardeners, and communal control of land and gardening resources. However, while all gardeners agreed with these organisational principles, when they set out to form some consensus over the shape of decision-making processes, some disagreed over the use of appropriate decision-making terminology, particularly over the term 'policy'. They felt that this term did not appropriately reflect City Farm's identity, organisational structure and goals, but rather that of bureaucracies.

The different views about decision-making were based on a number of dichotomous notions derived from the characteristics of ideal-type organisational structures of City Farm and of bureaucracies. That is, some believed that City Farm's decision-making processes should be informal, should account for the long-term nature of decision implementation, and should favour agreements which were to be unwritten. The opposite of this is of course the rational-legal system, such as a bureaucracy, which emphasises formality, short-term goals and written policy.

Informal social interaction took place mainly on the City Farm site during gardening days. Gardeners worked in small groups or alone. Some of the things that needed to be done were written on a blackboard next to the community notices boards, but there was no compulsion to follow that agenda. Formal decisions were made at monthly City Farm committee meetings, and three-monthly planning meetings, which were open to all.

The notions of informal and formal social interaction were intimately tied to the decision-making dichotomy of 'process' and 'outcome'. Some gardeners thought that the goals of City Farm should be achieved through 'process', that is, an open-ended, informal and long-term unfolding of decisions taken by gardeners. In this view the process of building relationships was more important than achieving measurable outcomes. The following quote of Susan exemplifies this view:

I realised that it's more important to know how you actually go about doing things than having these kinds of outcome in mind, that you'll achieve this and this and this [sic]. It's this really ... what's happening down there is sometimes a little hard to write and a lot of things are still in oral history because of that [sic]. You don't see the benefits in what you're doing until a couple of years down the track. You know it's being conscious about how you go about doing it. [It] has this sort of ripple effect and it's hard to know what the outcomes are until a lot further down, but I have a sense that's doing well. I thought it would be a lot quicker process, but I realise that developing community, developing [a] community project is a very long-term process. But if you try to develop it too quickly it would probably fall in a heap.

The 'process' approach to community development is consistent with the aims of inclusiveness, and its informality and open-endedness differentiates the City Farm gardeners from socially alienating formal and rational controls typical of bureaucracies and hierarchical authority structures. Notably, 'process' also reflects the sentiments of those who were attracted to City Farm because there were no rules, ideology or religion, to guide or push people in a predetermined direction.

However, although informal decision-making was preferred by all respondents, two respondents expressed the view that this type of decision-making was not always inclusive, that is, informal processes did not necessarily include all participants, but allowed some to hold more sway than others did. One of these two respondents argued that, on the contrary, formal processes of decision-making had the potential to allow everyone to have their say.

The emphasis on process coloured the way in which respondents viewed communication difficulties. For instance, Susan thought of communication difficulties as "positive", because gardeners had to develop new ways of communicating in order to be inclusive of all gardeners' views and achieve consensus. However, unclear communication frustrated the practical efforts of some gardeners in growing food. Tim reported that some gardeners would undo the work of other gardeners because, the former were not aware of the plans of the latter.

Nevertheless, some gardeners objected to the word 'policy' because, as Tim said, "policy sounded like something set in stone, would never be changeable and it sounded too like ... traditional, organisational (sic)". They preferred to discuss long- and short-term 'agreements'. Furthermore, the debate over the words 'agreements' or 'policies', or over whether there should be any policies at all, was coupled to a debate over whether policies or agreements should be written down or not. Tim explained that:

Some people had trouble with the notion that they [agreements] should be written down ... they wanted it to be worked afresh each time. So that nothing would be written, but ... whenever you arrived you had to have to work out afresh with whoever was there how you were going to go about doing things.

The objection to written agreements shows a concern that policy would become immutable and thus insensitive to changing conditions and the process of informal and open-ended gardener interactions.

Clearly, the conflict between decision-making models is a reflection of feelings of alienation and the need for sociality, through idealisations of social relations represented by notions of 'community', 'informality' and 'inclusiveness'. The diverging views over the most appropriate decision-making model highlight the gardeners' struggle to distinguish themselves from policy-making organisations structured along hierarchical and rational-legal lines. Yet, despite the insistence on informality and inclusiveness, some lamented a lack of direction and leadership, and the necessity to increase efforts to outreach and network for new membership.

Ultimately, long-term goals could not be defined in any clear or meaningful way, because sustainable community and ecological development were considered by some to be long-term processes constituted by largely unregulated short-term activities. This fuzziness about goals reinforced, and was reinforced by, the tension between immediate short-term gardening needs and the necessity to reach out to the community for new active members to achieve City Farm's long-term goal as a demonstration site for ecologically sustainable practices.

An indication of why there were few new members may lay in the demands placed on individuals by the labour market. In fact, some gardeners had moved away to labour market jobs. Also, as six respondents said, personal and family commitments also contributed to a general lack of time and energy and were an impediment in further involvement. Thus, City Farm had to compete for workers with the labour market, on which both gardeners and potential gardeners are dependent for cash, and also with family commitments of the gardeners. City Farm's unachieved goal to provide 'meaningful' or non-alienating paid work also indicates that its lack of gardeners was not only a matter of scarce finances, but also an ideological problem. The possibility of paying some gardeners for specific work but not for the work of the others, raised the question about how to equitably reward the gardeners' efforts while at the same time striving to achieve City Farm's material and social goals.

In sum, the policy issue shows that the gardeners found that participation afforded a sense of purpose or meaning by means of the identification with an organisational structure that strove to be different from rational-legal bureaucracies, which they found socially and politically alienating. The combination of City Farm's approach to decision-making, its ideological stance and the gardeners' dependence on cash for their livelihood also meant that City Farm was not able to provide significant financial remuneration for the work of some. Nevertheless, despite these issues gardeners still kept frequenting City Farm. As the next section will also show, the motivation for participation in community gardening cannot be based purely on individual rational self-interest, but must account for the relation of the individual to his or her societal and cultural environment.

City Farm gardeners as self-reliant producers and consumers

As we have seen, sociality, that is, the shared feeling of 'being-together', and ethical and ideological dimensions co-exist in the life of City Farm. In such context all work that reintegrated the individual in the community through democratic participation, and that was based on an ethical awareness of its social and ecological impacts, was deemed 'meaningful work'. This also applied to consumption, because gardeners aimed at reducing consumption by locally consuming food and using local resources for its production. That is, gardeners aimed at being less reliant on the market-provided foods, especially on foods originating from remote locations and, therefore, requiring more resources for its distribution. Organic food growing and permaculture design methods were used to ensure that local self-reliance was achieved in an ecologically sustainable way.

The emphasis on local self-reliance implicitly reinforced the link between production and consumption, but, through this, also to the community which brought production and consumption about. In other words, the reconnection of the alienated individual to the community was attributed by the respondents to the involvement with the process of food production, but also to forms of consumption that reflected an awareness of its impacts on people and nature. In this context, financial self-reliance was a crucial nexus between production and consumption. Gardeners hoped they could achieve a modicum of financial self-reliance through "meaningful work" obtained from City Farm, that is, work that gave the gardeners a sense of purpose and a sense of contributing to the community, thus strengthening the reconnection between individuals and the community. But because of the need for cash, as Susan lamented, gardeners had to stop frequenting City Farm when work became available. The possibility of developing small business ventures in the future, which some gardeners hoped for, would move towards reinforcing the connection between production, consumption and the City Farm community.

Unfortunately, food produced and consumed at City Farm did not have any overall positive financial impact for most of the gardeners. Although all respondents consumed some of the vegetables produced at City Farm, eight of them did not consume enough to consider such consumption as supplementing their income. All respondents ate the food produced at City Farm within days or weeks of picking it, and three of these also preserved or froze it, while one had other unspecified uses. For only two respondents the consumption of City Farm food constituted over 25% of their total yearly vegetable consumption. This means that most respondents were largely reliant on cash to satisfy their food and other needs. Indeed, eight gardeners contributed a number of material resources at their own expense, such as seedlings, tools, hardware and the petrol necessary for materials transport. But despite the low personal consumption of City Farm food, seven respondents also gave away food, mainly to immediate family, but also to other family members (one respondent), while the remaining three gave away food to flatmates, neighbours, friends and others. Significantly, three respondents lamented that much of the food from City Farm was stolen by passers-by.

Attempts at self-reliance through food production and consumption also extended to the household. In fact, eight respondents grew food at home, six of whom used organic and/or permaculture growing methods, while two used other food growing techniques. The remaining two respondents did not grow any food at their place of residence. Most respondents also cooked their food from fresh materials, and processed some of their food. The respondents' subjective estimates of the food cooked and processed at home revealed that only one respondent processed 5 per cent of food consumed at home, while three processed between 40 and 50 per cent of their food. Two processed between 60 and 75 per cent of their food. Four respondents processed above 85 per cent of their food. Most respondents were not overly dependent on take-away foods, on 'eating out', or on pre-packaged and processed foods. However, while, on the surface, this may be because they processed a considerable amount of fresh foods at home, the respondents did not provide any explicit indications for their low or non-existent levels of non-household processed food consumption.

The respondents' food shopping practices were motivated by both self-reliance and ethical concerns and by financial considerations and shopping practicalities. Part of the environmentalist approach to self-reliance is the support of economies that rely on their own financial and material resources, before relying on economies outside their own area or region. However, this was not the only reason for buying from local shops rather than from supermarkets. Indeed, while six respondents bought most of their fruit and vegetables from local shops, and four of seven meat-eaters bought meat from the local butcher, only three respondents said they shopped from local shops because the money exchanged stayed longer in the local community. Local shops were also preferred to supermarkets because they were either organic suppliers (five respondents), or provided better quality food (four respondents). All respondents bought all other foods items unobtainable at local stores from supermarkets. Only two respondents used convenience stores, one for vegetables, the other for other foods. However, others thought that supermarket food was cheaper (four respondents) and easily accessible (five respondents). Supermarkets had a better range of foods (two respondents), but they were unavoidable for some non-food items (two respondents). Clearly despite the ideologically motivated preference for local shops, economic and time constraints made shopping at supermarkets more convenient for some.

Evidently individual gardeners benefited from the consumption of City Farm produced food, however minimally, and, as they reported, from gaining new skills and knowledge, and improving their physical and mental well-being. However, this is not sufficient in itself for the continued participation in community gardening, if we are to take a utilitarian view. In fact, while all respondents gave their time and provided materials to City Farm at their personal expense, City Farm food consumption did not notably supplement most gardeners' income. Rather, City Farm consumed more resources or inputs for production from the households of eight respondents and produced little output, which was further diminished by theft. In other words, financial, material and time costs of involvement in City Farm outweighed the benefits.

The significance of sociality as a crucial motivator in community gardening activities was highlighted by the attribution to participation in community garden activities for improvements in the gardeners' physical and mental health. Accompanying this emphasis on sociality were the gardeners' ideological aims manifested through talk about the benefits of gardening. That is, talk that was used to justify the merits of community gardening as a means to achieve environmentalist and social justice ends, even though the material benefits to the individual did not materialise in significant ways.

Fairs, feasts and consumption

Part of the life of City Farm includes the organisation of 'feasts' celebrating equinoxes, solstices and full moons, and the presence of City Farm's stall in yearly open-air fairs with an ecological orientation. Both feasts and fairs are consumption activities, but they are strongly related to the gardeners' sense of group identity and they are points of interface with the other people of Brisbane.

The Green Fair is an annual event which was first organised by City Farm in late 1996 and was held in the car park adjacent to City Farm. It included a number of stalls selling ecologically friendly wares, literature, food, seeds and seedlings, and other ecologically oriented products. Similarly, the Water for Wildlife Festival (see Photograph 4) held in Brisbane in late 1997 is very similar to the Green Fair (see Photograph 5), but has a specific ecological theme. Various ecological and community groups were present at fairs and festivals. City Farm had its own stall at the Green Fairs from which it sold seeds, seedlings and related items to the public.

Respondents placed fairs in a framework that differentiated them from dominant commercial activities by, again, using notions that denoted emotion and an idealised community. For instance, Steve viewed shopping centres as places where the commercial ambience was aggressive and manipulative and contrasted this to the Green Fair held yearly in Brisbane, which, though still commercial, he described as gentler:

Yeah, I don't mind it. I find it sort of quite different than the normal commercial sort of venture. You know what I mean? It's like going back to medieval times. Fairs and bloody clowns, all that sort of thing. It's a different outlook on life, [...] right? Still commercial to some extent, just done differently. Done more gently.

The contrast between the sense of safety attributed to the City Farm community to the aggressiveness of the commercial world that individualises persons as isolated consumers, once again highlights the significance of sociality.

In fact, such aggressive consumerism had its mirror image in aggressive productivism, that is, the prevailing economic growth mentality, which was also contrasted to the sense of safety they reported feeling at City Farm. That is, employment contracts were seen as being "... Quite often, not necessarily, but quite often" threatening, whereas City Farm provided "an avenue for people to participate in a way that is very non-threatening".

The popular notion of rural life as slow and gentle was reflected in the respondents' discourses about fairs, and about City Farm. That is, fairs were seen as "rustic" and "medieval", while City Farm was gentle, simple, slow-paced, and non-consumerist. On the other hand, as we have seen above, the world of the labour market and of commercialism was portrayed as aggressive, fast-paced and competitive. Again, underlying these dichotomies, are the emotive experiences of trust and mistrust, safety and stress, and also coercion and manipulation.

Whereas fairs were an occasion where City Farmers were both producers and consumers in a commercial setting, feasts provided the opportunity for City Farmers to share a meal with others. This was the primary motive, even though part of the money raised from the feasts was given to overseas sustainable development or environmentalist political projects and part was used to further City Farm. Activities during the feast indicated that feasts were more than an excuse for fundraising.

During the feasts held at City Farm, participants gathered in the late evening and paid a few dollars for a plate of vegetarian food (on one occasion there was a little meat) prepared and served by volunteers (see Photograph 6). The majority of participants were not City Farm gardeners. The number of participants on the three occasions I had attended was around fifty, although on another occasion it was reported to have reached about 200. During the feast, participants wandered around the City Farm grounds and talked with others in small groups as they ate. Others played drums or sat around a large bonfire (see Photographs 7 and 8). On some occasions there were fire-stick twirlers.

The celebration of the seasonal and lunar cycles plays an important role in the formation of the City Farm community identity. The celebration of nature is the feature that distinguishes feasts from other contemporary secular celebrations, such as ANZAC Day, and from events which are expressive of daily sociality, or 'being-together' (cf. Maffesoli 1996), such as barbecues or drinking at the local pub. However, the respondents placed different emphases on the importance of feasts.

All respondents agreed that feasts provided opportunity for outreach and networking. Three believed that feasts provided a sense of belonging and identity and togetherness. However, while one respondent expressed the view that people had a psychological need for large groups, another did not consider feasts essential. He saw large groups as unwieldy and impersonal, often breaking into smaller groups of already acquainted people. Indeed, another respondent had reservations about the feasts' inclusiveness. He argued that feasts tended to attract younger people who had common tastes in dress, music and food. It was indeed the case that there were a substantial number of younger participants whose attire would conform to the description of 'new age travellers' (Polhemus 1994). He also argued that families would have safety concerns for their children because feasts took place at night. He concluded that City Farm needed to attract a wider diversity of groups, while still striving for a general balance or consensus between different approaches to gardening, and added that people's energies would be better spent on improving City Farm as a productive and viable alternative.

However, only one respondent articulated the ecological dimensions of seasonal feasts as playing an important role in the creation of personal and community meaning for feast participants. She saw feasts as reconnecting people to nature by celebrating the seasonal cycle. This she contrasted with the "meaningless rituals" of the consumer society. The act of consuming food with others within this celebratory context ties the idea of community development to the long-term processes of nature and, therefore, to cyclical time. In turn, the idea of natural long-term process is carried over to the idea of community decision-making as process. Furthermore, Susan clearly linked feasts and community to an earth-based spirituality:

Yes, I was saying before we're pretty isolated within our community, we're also pretty spiritually devoid as well. ... I feel that our society is pretty spiritually devoid, and not necessarily in a religious sense but in a ... spiritual sense. And I'd like to see City Farm offer some kind of spiritual connection as well, and honouring the spiritual connection we have ... offering opportunities to people to explore their spirituality in terms of ... earth based spirituality. And there's a whole thing of interconnectedness [...] sort of. My spirituality is based on my connection with the earth and with community.

Earth-based spirituality as such was relevant to at least another respondent, while another three subscribed to forms of spiritual universalism, that is, the belief that all religions are in essence the same. Notably, Susan contrasted earth-based spirituality in terms of its relationship to formal religion:

Spirituality to me is an inner sense of meaning and how you express that. Religion is an organised set of spiritual values or whatever, which people come together over. Like you've got certain set of rules and values and ways of praying and ways of doing whatever and those people who say relate to Islam or whatever, do things a certain way. But maybe underneath all of those practices there's another essence ...

The quote above clearly shows that the dichotomy of rules-based religion versus relationship-based spirituality is paralleled by, respectively, formal versus informal social structures. Furthermore, Susan's view that feasts should be self-reliant in terms of musical entertainment, that is, not dependent on 'experts' or professional musicians, or on pre-recorded music, in order to muster the resources and skills of the feast participants, parallels the rejection of a priestly cast or elite.

In sum, the attendance of feasts demonstrates that group identity-making operated on two levels. One was at a daily or mundane level where gardeners made decisions about how their mode of food production could pose as an alternative to other dominant modes of food production. The other level operated during 'sacred time', where participation in consumption activities gained its meaning from a feeling of community. This was through sharing food with others and thus making this form of consumption distinguishable from individualistic consumption to the gardeners and non-gardeners who are participating in the feast. In other words, the garden is visible in the day as a site of production to passers-by non-gardeners, and thus the site bespeaks of the gardeners as producers. On the other hand City Farm is visible only to feast participants as a site of 'alternative' consumption. Therefore, feasts communicate their meanings as an alternative form of consumption only to those few who understand its symbolic context and, potentially, to those who are on the feast site.

What unites both of these levels of identity making is clearly a sense of cyclical long-term time underpinned by a feeling of community, rather than linear time oriented towards achieving short-term goals set by a rational framework, and also a spatial context which make intelligible the meanings of gardening and feasting. Notably, Paul compared City Farm to both a town square and the role of churches, in forging links between community and meaning. He said:

Perhaps, I remember when I was a kid, we used to go to church all the time. That was sort of like in the 70s. And I think that's faded. The church, you know, you only get your religion at church, it's a really important social aspect. So all those different institutions ... that's what I'm saying, all those institutions have been eroded, and they've been ... they've been ... there hasn't [already] been anything I've found that's substitute of that. And I think there's a longing ... there's a still a longing by people to have that connection to other people, and community gardens, here in Australia they're a fairly new idea ... and maybe they're replacing that, maybe they're filling that gap a bit. They act as a bit of a ... gathering place. Like I was saying before about the town square, and all that sort of thing. So ... when I said a community remnant, I meant there's still people out there who feel strongly about ... wanting community; and I think the people that you see at community gardens are those people. Still have a bit of a passion for that. A longing for that. A lot of people have [...] forgotten about the whole aspect of getting together, I think. When I say community remnant I meant the people.

It is worth noting, however, that one spiritual universalist did not attribute personal importance to feasts, but placed more importance on formal decision-making and on production. Of five respondents (three were agnostic and two of nondescript belief), one gave no personal importance to feasts, other than networking and outreach value. Yet, two of the agnostic respondents were also those who said were attracted to City Farm because of the lack of rules, religion or ideology. In other words, we cannot assume from this sample that a simple correlation between spiritual belief and the view that feasts were important or that decision-making should be based on agreements. Rather is seems, in this instance, that shared feelings and a strategic use of time periods and space were used to distinguish the City Farm group from 'mainstream society'. At City Farm the relationship of the individual to others through feeling, time and space seems to take precedence over religious, spiritual or philosophical labels as such.


Although the data obtained from the City Farm respondents shows City Farmers gained similar benefits to the community gardeners investigated by Curran (1993) and particularly Jamison (1985), the influence of sociality as a motivator for City Farm gardeners adds depth to our understanding of the social life of community gardeners.

Whereas Jamison's (1985) portrays the gardeners in his study as overly determined by structure and ideology, the data presented here shows that City Farmers' strategically used their ideologies to define the group in relation to dominant social institutions and consumer culture. In other words, they were not competent executioners of rules of behaviour, but learning to deal with an uncertain social environment, which involved not only intra-garden interactions, but also interactions with other individuals, groups and institutions. In this light the struggle over the appropriate decision-making language and processes becomes a struggle at managing the demands of an ever-changing organisational environment. Similarly, the higher degree of legitimacy of the informal decisions of some is also a way of managing uncertainty, while at the same time maintaining the group's identity through informality.

The findings of this study show that the participation that is existentially meaningful motivates gardeners to keep on frequenting City Farm and, in turn, informs decision-making processes, and the consumption of food in the household, at City Farm, and during feasts. Indeed, the great effort gardeners put into organising feasts demonstrates that its social and cultural significance is greater than the concern of some gardeners for food productivity, to which feasts in themselves do not significantly contribute.

Nevertheless, at the simplest level there have been indications that some gardeners need to create a space between themselves and the demands other gardeners and non-gardeners place on them with regards to gardening related activities. In other words a tension between 'being with others' and 'being alone' re-emerges even at City Farm. This tension is also reflected ideologically between satisfying social needs in order to achieve a broader social change vision, and the immediate ecological goals of City Farm.




This study's findings have shown that participation in community gardening, which held meaning and provided a sense of purpose for gardeners, was crucial in motivating and informing both production and consumption activities. Thus, as was also the case in Jamison's (1985) study, beneficial aspects of community gardening gained meaning in the communal context and were not sufficient reason in themselves to motivate involvement in gardening.

The relationship between emotions, representations, and the social and economic context underlie issues of practical consequences for City Farmers. In particular, the best way to make decisions to achieve City Farm's goals and the gardeners dependence the labour market for cash. The analysis of the findings also presents us with theoretical problems. Unlike many sociological approaches, which assume rationality to determine all social relations, the findings problematise emotion. This is especially in its relation to the environmentalist ideology, its political goals and the cultural character of the environmental movement of which City Farm is, partly, an expression.

Furthermore the findings re-establish the sociological consensus that consumption is a cultural as well as an economic activity. Consequently, in the framework of the present study, consumption must become a central consideration when working towards social and ecological change. However, while class is still relevant to societal organisation, the multiplicity of groups with which individuals identify may also indicate significant changes in the cultural make-up of contemporary Western society.

With these considerations in mind, I will discuss the following four areas of concern in the present chapter. Firstly, I will explore the theoretical relationship between emotion and ideology, particularly by relating Eder's (1990) thesis that the new middle class will lead the green movement in the new class struggle over the cultural field to consumption and to a critique of modernist sociology (e.g. functionalism, Marxism), as it has neglected the nexus between emotion and space-time.

This will lead to the second part of the discussion, which is an exploration of how the relationship between ideology and emotion was expressed among City Farmers through the decision-making debate. Here I will show how, despite conflicting views and contradictions between ideology and practice, the City Farmers' shared feelings and shared territory relativise moralities and allow for the incorporation of ideological differences (cf. Maffesoli 1996).

Thirdly, I will show that the City Farmers' 'economic localism' is part of their response as ethical consumers to the globalisation of capital, and that such response is inherently local. Nevertheless, their goal to achieve increased self-reliance is hampered by financial pressures and geographical distances.

Finally, I will discuss the cultural significance of fairs and, particularly, feasts to the renewal of social ties among City Farmers and between City Farmers and outsiders. Indeed, these manifestations of social effervescence are a symbolic incorporation of the stranger through the sharing of food into the identity of City Farm and, vice-versa, they symbolise the inclusion of City Farm into a broader network of cognate groups.

I will conclude with a summary and recommend a more marked incorporation of the cultural and the habitual into planning for City Farm.

Grounding community gardeners in ecological concern: 'new middle class' leaders or flawed consumers?

The ideologies expressed at City Farm are characteristic of a broad social and cultural critique of modernity. However such critiques often do not incorporate emotion as part of their considerations. Indeed, the findings obtained from this study strongly indicate that emotion plays a central role together with social representations used by the City Farm group. The differences in ideological emphasis and contradictory positions among City Farm gardeners challenge sociological analyses based on the assumption that there are clear-cut historical shifts in the collective consciousness or ideologies. This is demonstrated by environmentalism which rose as a counter-cultural opposition to modernist notions of nature (Eder 1990), but still carries over some of modernism's notions, rendering the achievement of its goals problematic. It is therefore necessary to intersect emotion and representation, respectively expressed as feelings of belonging and alienation and ideas of community and democracy. Such an approach will hopefully expand our understanding of planning for social and economic change.

It is commonly accepted that most environmentalists oppose an instrumentalist view of nature. Such a perspective is founded on an anthropocentric morality based on the model of human justice (Eder 1990), that effectively eschews emotion. As Eder (1990) points out, modernist rationality has non-rational foundations: it has "negative attitudes toward the cultural tradition from which it comes and toward nature within which it lives" (Eder 1990:26). Even for Marx, whom we might invoke for a moral stance against the human alienation from nature (Marx [1844] 1971), nature becomes the mirror upon which the activity of human consciousness is reflected. Marx argues that humans, unlike animals, can consciously direct production to freely chosen ends oriented towards the future, rather than the satisfaction of immediate needs. In other words, humans are able to plan. In his words, "[animals] produce only under the compulsion of direct physical need, while man produces when he is free from physical need and only truly produces in freedom from such need" (Marx 1971:57). Ultimately, although Marx's theory of alienation itself is strongly reflected in the respondents' reported feelings of alienation from labour, self, people and nature, the City Farm gardeners articulated their feelings on alienation to accentuate what Marx (and other modernists) has left theoretically undeveloped: the emotional, non-rational aspects of social experience.

Eder (1990) tries to address this theoretical gap by conceiving environmental concern as a new field of class struggle which is cultural rather than social. It is a struggle for substituting the modernist symbolic order with an environmentalist one, based on an explicitly moral relationship between people and nature, which centres around the dichotomy of 'purity/impurity'. In a similar vein to Miller's (1995) bourgeois 'housewife', Eder (1990) argues that the new middle classes are the potential bearers of a new cultural movement, environmentalism, because the struggle is fought over a symbolic field that is of central concern to the middle classes' identity. However, the position of the middle classes of Eder's (1990) analysis seems unproblematic, whereas Miller's (1995) bourgeois 'housewife' is placed in an economically contradictory position. As the findings have shown, some of the City farm gardeners were placed in a contradictory position, not only because of their economic dependence on the labour market a la Miller (1995), but also because of 'contradictions' between the representational, practical and the emotional levels. These ultimately affected both the internal management of City Farm and its future as a sustainable alternative.

The profile of the respondents showed that they were not representative of one particular social or economic class. In fact, six respondents were unemployed and the occupational status and income of the remaining four indicated that they were in the middle and lower-middle classes. Notably, the high levels of unemployment amongst City Farmers and the gardening activities themselves, placed all City Farmers among the 'flawed consumers'. These are:

people unable to respond to the enticements of the consumer market because they lack the required resources, people unable to be 'free individuals' according to the new sense of 'freedom' defined in terms of consumer choice (Bauman 1997:14) and who, as a group, are financially dependent on the impersonal and alienating State and the local government structures. Indeed, the alienation, the sense of fear and mistrust the gardeners spoke about centres on the 'flawed consumers', the new strangers of late or post-modernity, who are increasingly becoming 'criminalised' as their ability to participate in both the labour and the consumer markets is eroded (cf. Bauman 1997).

Nevertheless, despite their marginality as a group, the middle-class position of some and the high level of formal education of most are an important reminder that environmentalism originated from intellectual articulations of their relationships to nature of the petit-bourgeoisie from which the new middle classes evolved (Eder 1990). Thus, if anything distinguishes City Farmers from other 'flawed consumers' it is that they oppose the dominant culture of consumption through collective consumption activities which have a specific social and ecological significance. Ultimately, ideas may originate from the habits of one class, but will circulate to other classes or groups to be reinterpreted and practised by them in their specific temporal and spatial context.

The ideas and practices of City Farmers highlight the limitations of Eder's (1990) critique. Although Eder (1990) criticises modernism for marginalising the moral, his analysis is limited by the objectification of the history of modernism, that is, History seen from without. In his vision, the new middle classes, the new protagonists of History, are leading the charge. But whom are they leading? The apparent apathy of the some gardeners to grand ideological projects reflects the general apathy of the masses to the same. This stresses the necessity to develop an understanding of a sense of history from within, and specifically of the collective memories of the locality (cf. Halbwachs 1968, in Maffesoli 1996:13). In other words, we must ground theorising in the collective sensibilities and the lived experiences of the anonymous masses if we must comprehend the moral and emotional bases of the symbolic field used by environmentalists.

The heartfelt indifference of the masses

It is crucial to understand that the ideological differences among City Farmers, however slight, are an indication of contradictions between the ideology of environmentalism, which itself is both a product of modernity and an anti-modernist movement, and human sociality, in all its spatial and temporal dimensions. I will relate the findings to theoretical approaches that account for the importance of the emotional dimensions of 'community'.

The conception of environmentalism as a new cultural and moral 'paradigm' is also shared by Maffesoli (1996). However, unlike Eder (1990), he more effectively integrates the emotional into his analysis. Maffesoli (1996) argues that there is a resurgence in the aesthetic, the ecological and the spiritual that is expressed through a multitude of relatively temporary groups or neo-tribes that share common emotional bonds. The common puissance or 'will to life' expressed by the 'masses' stands in contrasts to the 'will to power' (pouvior) of the political, which is disguised as rational. The political attempts to homogenise the unwieldy masses both through an ideology of 'valuelessness' or objectivity and through social controls. However, this non-moral ideology regularly disguises and represses immoral or barbaric tendencies that are abundantly expressed in subtle and non-so subtle forms of cruelty (Mestrovic 1993).

On the other hand, puissance has an intrinsic and explicit moral aspect. Maffesoli (1996) argues that the ethical ensues from shared sentiments of people who share a physical or symbolic space, and can emerge as both as compassionate and as barbaric manifestations. But there is no attempt to repress compassion or barbarism through a rationalist ideology. As Maffesoli exemplifies:

What can we assume from this other than that justice itself is subordinate to the experience of closeness; that abstract and eternal justice is relativised by the feeling (whether hate or love) experienced in a given territory? (Maffesoli 1996:17).

Indeed, Maffesoli posits a 'conflictual harmony' between groups, the incorporation of differences, of the stranger, into the fabric of the whole based not on a rational or functional homogeneity, but on consensus, that is, in its etymological sense, "with the senses" (Maffesoli 1996:104), on the shared sentiment between different, even conflicting groups.

The findings have shown that City Farm clearly constitutes a community held together by a shared sentiment and a shared community ethic. The debate on policy and agreements revealed a need to affirm a community ethos, especially in its emphasis on decision-making and community development as process, which coincides with 'spontaneous growth', the unplanned effervescence of community life (Maffesoli 1996:35). However, the presence of those emphasising the importance of more formal approaches to decision-making provides an indication that a cut-and-dry paradigmatic shift, as portrayed by Maffesoli (1996), is not reflected within City Farm. Furthermore, the presence of both environmentalism and the indifference to ideology and rules highlights the contradictions and ambiguities produced by environmentalism as a political project, and the popular puissance that energises the movement.

To illustrate, there were three ideal-type approaches contemporarily present within the City Farm group. First was what we shall call the 'social reformist' approach, preferring formal decision-making to enhance participation; second, the 'environmentalist' approach, which emphasises the importance of gardening as ecological survival, and informal participation and decision-making; last, the 'non-utopian' approach showing an apparent indifference to all rules, ideologies or utopian dreams. Nevertheless, there was considerable overlap between these three positions. The social reformists and the non-utopians also appreciated the value of the ecology approach, while the 'environmentalists' understood the importance of addressing community needs; and the 'non-utopians' were certainly not totally indifferent to social and political concerns. These ambiguities must force us to break with the ideal-types to uncover the complex relationship between ideology and emotion.

In order to understand such relationships we must not dismiss the indifference of the 'non-utopian' respondents as mere 'false consciousness'. This indifference, together with irony and mockery, is part of the "aloofness of the people" (Maffesoli 1996:46). It is an aspect of the masses' will to survive in the face of power. Within City Farm, aloofness manifests itself in the duplicity of both support and indifference to the environmentalist project. That is, some gardened for the sake of gardening, without any intention or hope to 'save the world' or interest in ideologies, and yet supported environmentalist aims. Of course, such an aloofness is not limited to the City Farm group. It is also present within a plurality of groups, "the various networks, affinity and interest groups or neighbourhood ties that structure our megalopolises (Maffesoli 1996:47), as the respondents' high level of membership in other interest and community groups could indicate.

The ambiguous, even contradictory, position of the 'environmentalists' demonstrates that Maffesoli's (1996) neat distinction between the social and sociality, power and puissance, and ideology and emotion is limited, and compels us to explore the intersection between these. On a practical level, City Farm's 'environmentalists' were caught between the demands of planning for production and responding to community development needs, and the need to just get on with gardening. This practical predicament is also mirrored at an ideological level. Sound community development, an imperative to achieve future goals, necessitated a greater involvement in formal planning and administration, particularly when aiming to involve other people and groups outside City Farm. This contrasted with the ethos of informality, fuelled by a 'will to survive', the affective ties between gardeners, which was signified by both the 'process' approach to decision making and by food production and consumption practices. Most importantly, this also indicates that City Farm needed to break out of actual or potential social insularity in order to survive. This was accomplished with relative success through the feast celebrations and, to a lesser degree, through fairs, in other words, through City Farm's alternative forms of consumption that distinguished it from dominant forms of consumption. Yet, the number of gardeners was still not sufficient to make City Farm more self-reliant.

The contradictory situation the 'environmentalists' found themselves in resembles the Marxian duality between the immediate needs of the animal and the human future-oriented consciousness that transforms nature beyond the immediate necessities for survival. Clearly, the gardeners act out of the immediate necessities of life, and are also capable of rationally planning for production and for the development of social ties oriented towards the development of future community goals. This dualism between the present-oriented 'will to life' and control over the future also resembles or overlaps the duality of the Durkheimian homo duplex: passions or desires reside within the body and are in a constant state of tension with collective representations (Mestrovic 1993). However, these coexist within the same person (Mestrovic 1993) in a tension that constitutes a double centre of gravity where passions are the stronger pole that collective representations or morality strive to contain. Already we can see that this is a re-appropriation of Durkheimian thought from functionalism, which, like Marxism, would give consciousness or rationality the upper hand.

Thus, the tension between emotion and representations that can be found within individuals and within groups, such as the 'social reformists' and the 'environmentalists'. But, notably there are also tensions among emotions that pertain to individuals and groups. The contradictory position of the 'environmentalists' finds a parallel with the ties between individuals and groups, namely, that the sociality, the 'being-together' that emerges from the community can reach a level that individuals will find undesirable. In other words there comes a point when individuals need to be alone. Mestrovic (1993) argues that:

it appears that Durkheim is referring to the integration of groups, not the supposedly quantifiable attachment of individuals to groups, even though he does not make it immediately clear how a group can be conceived as being integrated versus disintegrated (1993:127).

The integration of groups, I would suggest, perhaps corresponds to Maffesoli's (1996) notion of a 'conflictual harmony' between groups and this can be equally applied to the relationship between individuals and groups. Mestrovic (1993) goes on to show, by way of discussing Durkheim's Suicide, that even strong ties to the community can lead to anomic behaviour, such as suicide or murder, radically departing from the functionalist interpretation of the relationship in terms of direct and indirect correlations. Thus, from the analysis of the 'environmentalist' position emerges a tension between immediate and future community needs, and a tension between 'being-together' accompanied by representational rhetoric of 'community' as ethical, and 'being-alone', which is, nevertheless, different from alienation.

City Farmers as ethical consumers

City Farmers live in a society where identities are based around consumption rather than occupation. However, their consumption activities differ from other dominant ones in that they reflected social and ecological ethics. Tied to their sense of community identity is an economic localism, a social, ecological and political sensitivity to consumption and production at the economic interface between the global and the local. In other words, their actions would suggest that they are concerned that nation-states and their subdivisions are increasingly becoming dependent on multinational corporations for economic survival, and that local or national self-reliance will suffer as a consequence. In practice, City Farmers opted to buy when possible and practicable, from small local businesses to keep the circulation of money longer in the local community, rather than purchasing from (multinational) chain stores which would 'export' profits away from the local communities. Also they opted to produce some of their own food at either City Farm or in their home backyards. However, while I cannot comment on whether or not profits effectively stay in the local community for a longer period by buying 'local' or Australian, what concerns me here is the social and cultural significance of the act of buying 'local'.

There were a number of features that distinguished City Farmers as consumers from most other consumers, but all such features shared an ethical concern and had a community focus. Firstly gardeners, like most people, consumed food individually, by sharing it with significant others and with strangers. However, the context differed in that some collective food consumption was also part of a celebration of the Earth's natural cycles and was a way of marking its group identity. Secondly, the preference for non-market food, that is, food from their home backyards or from City Farm, was based on their emphasis on local-self reliance, which distinguished them from other consumers who are totally dependent on the market for all of their food needs. Thirdly, City Farmers produced some of the food they consumed, either at home or at City Farm. However, food production at City Farm was not recognised as an occupation and, therefore, as part of the formal economy. Lastly, they were aware of the link between consumption and food production, by being involved in the food production process of some of the food they consumed.

City Farmers' goals of being ethical consumers and of being self-reliant are impeded by two significant factors. Firstly, there are the pressures of the labour market. All City Farmers are still largely dependent on the labour market for paid work, or on the State for income subsidy, or partially on household income. In other words, they depend on cash to satisfy their need for goods and services that are provided by the market. These dependencies impact negatively on the City Farmer's goals of self-reliance. Some City Farmers are compelled to move away from Brisbane to follow employment opportunities. This 'enforced' geographical mobility has the effect of detracting from City Farm's own labour force.

Furthermore, the irregular attendance of most other gardeners may indicate that other personal, public or employment commitments take precedence and/or that the distance of City Farm from their residence impairs increased attendance. Secondly, despite the respondents' relatively high amount of home processed food that made them less dependent on processed and pre-packaged foods, and their support for independent local businesses, many still relied on supermarkets for most or some of their food needs. That economic and geographical mobility considerations were significant, namely, cheap food obtainable from large commercial outlets and their accessibility due to their strategic positioning in the structure of the city, is not surprising since City Farm is constituted by mostly unemployed individuals.

Both the economic localism and the social characteristics of City Farmers reflect the social and economic changes brought about by globalization. Globalization can be defined as the compression of time and space through higher migration rates, increased contacts between cultures, and faster transfers of information, finances and technologies (Featherstone 1995). The combination of labour market pressures, household income and easy access to the 'means of consumption', that is, "those things owned by capitalists and rendered by them as necessary to customers in order for them to consume" (Ritzer 1998:91), places City Farmers in a contradictory position identical to that of Miller's (1995) 'housewife'. By consuming goods produced on the global market they contribute to the high transnational mobility of capital, thus making themselves, as workers and as unemployed, highly dependent on work made available by transnational capital and vulnerable to their own consumption choices. The City Farmers' 'consumer localism', as an economic response to globalization and its destabilising effects, is clearly neither efficient nor effective as a response to the economic issues it seeks to address. Nevertheless, the ethical dimension of consumer localism is also expressed not only though consumer choices, but also though in the use of City Farm space for food production. The assertion of the ethical through local time/space is as important in defining the relationship between global and local.

The ethical basis of these practices places the articulation of consumption based identities in a different light. It may be, as Miller (1995) argues, that the 'bourgeois housewife' partially embodies 'green consumer' awareness, but, in the case of City Farm, such morality seems to materialise in the context of the 'emotional community' or neo-tribe, located in time and space (Maffesoli 1996). Indeed, such group or neo-tribe includes both unemployed and middle class individuals who are 'flawed consumers' (Bauman 1997). In such a context, the choice of environmentally friendly products per se is subsumed to a common ethic and common practices. Therefore, City Farmers' consumption ethics are not based on the rational ethics of the Enlightenment, even though they may later find rational bases for their ethical behaviour. Rather, their concern that consumption undermines ecological sustainability directly highlights the irrationality of the endless desire for consumer goods. An ecological ethics, in this regard, opposes 'anomie', the term Durkheim used to describe 'endless desire' (Mestrovic 1991, 1993). A state of anomie is present when moral boundaries are removed and desires become infinite and unquenchable. Although anomie is necessary to challenge the boundaries set by authority, anomie can often lead to murder and egotistic suicide, as Durkheim had argued in Suicide ([1897] 1951) (Mestrovic 1991, 1993).

This lack of constraint is evident today, as it was in Durkheim's time, in the economic anomie brought about by the deregulation of business (Mestrovic 1991). However, deregulation also applies to consumption, as shown by the ever-increasing number of identities to 'try on' (Bauman 1997). In this regard identity becomes an unattainable goal, at least for most, as the consumable identities become infinite. This situation, of course, leaves no space for the formation of habits, that is partly non-reflexive yet meaningful dispositions which, not coincidentally, modernist sociologies have ignored in favour of observable ahistorical 'rational social action' (Mestrovic 1993:14). This reflects the modernist rejection of "the 'traditional', inherited and received, order [with modernity] in which being means a perpetual new beginning" (Bauman 1997:10).

It is clear, then, that the City Farmers' ethics do not originate from a priori abstractions of a Kantian kind, but are grounded in and expressed through the body and the space in which the body is situated. The economic and social anomie opposed by the City Farmers is an acknowledgement not only of ecological boundaries, but also of moral boundaries. Indeed these two become almost identical. To disregard the boundaries set by the ecology means unleashing the human desires from moral boundaries set by the collective ideology, in this case, the environmental ideology. Thus the result of economic anomie may also be 'ecocide', that is the destruction of the environment of which we are part.

This approach to environmentalism highlights the City Farmers' physically situated status, which affects the way their morality is expressed. This significantly distinguished their morality from the morality imputed by Eder (1990) on the nineteenth century petit-bourgeoisie and onto the ensuing new middle classes. That is, the latter's moral relationship to nature originates from their visual mode of interacting with the natural derived from their leisure activities, and is expressed through representations of nature as pure or impure. Instead, the City Farmers' relationship to the natural is both visual and tactile, that is 'close-up'. This is clearly reflected by the permaculture design practices based on a feedback loop that begins with observation of all ecological elements on which design is based, and is followed by implementation of the design, actually gardening.

These visual and tactile modes of interaction with nature also find their reflection in the social organisation and ideology of the City Farmers. More specifically, the City Farmers' emphasis on a community ethic reflects a tactile dimension, that is the physical proximity necessary for shared feelings to bind the group together (Maffesoli 1996). The representational field or ideology reflects a visual dimension in that the gardeners intellectually articulate for themselves their community's internal and external relationships and envision future possibilities for City Farm. In other words, whereas proximity reinforces the feeling of community, reflexivity defines and separates by a process of abstraction in terms of received categories, which ultimately are redefined through practice within City Farm's social and geographical context.

Just as the visual and tactile overlap in the use and design of City Farm, the 'public' and the 'private' are also juxtaposed through food production. That is, food production, an activity usually relegated to the backyard and to the rural areas, is placed, respectively, in a public and urban context. In a way, the demonstration backyard seems to emphasise this double juxtaposition. We may compare City farm to a similar instance of the juxtaposed social spaces: the Plaza de la Corona Boreal in Madrid. Here Dominican immigrants "transposed to public space activities appropriate to a space removed from others' gaze ('the Dominicans live on the street: they cook, eat, fight, even wash themselves')" (Nieto and FranzŽ 1997:464). However, City Farm also constitutes "'conspicuous non-consumption' ... an image of a different way to live" (Hester 1989:69), as it communicates social innovation though design innovation. Thus, following Hester's (1989) argument, City Farm's juxtaposition of public and private accelerates the acceptance of social change. However, unlike the Dominicans the City Farmers' daytime food production activities have not attracted the same public and media attention that the Dominicans have. Passers-by do often walk through City Farm grounds; school children come to take a tour, while others come to steal the food. Nevertheless, while City Farm does constitutes a juxtaposition of usually distinct social spaces, the specific goals and ideologies that are important to City Farmers may indeed be less, or not at all, evident to outsiders, as they do not directly share in the daily life of City Farm (cf. Campbell 1995:115, for a critique of the communicative act paradigm).

The dark side of the moon: nature, place and commensality

In the context of this research, feasts and fairs were events attended by large numbers of people who, like City Farmers, had at least some interest in the environment, if not direct involvement in environmental activism. While fairs such as these reflect the moral concerns of environmentalism and are constructed as giving a sense of community, they are still centred on individual consumption of ecologically sound goods. Feasts, on the other hand, are a celebration of the cycle of the seasons and the new moons through the collective consumption of food, playing music, choir singing, fire-stick twirling and other activities. This constitutes a clear instance of 'collective effervescence', which originates from "the assembled social groups that harnesses people's passion to the symbolic order of society (Shilling and Mellor 1998:196). In this case, the inherent symbolic order that the feasts reproduce is one centred on process-oriented decision-making, and informality. This is achieved though the earth spirituality themes of the feasts. Yet the inclusion of non-City Farmers in both fairs and feasts is also of crucial significance, as it defines 'locality' in relation to the global.

Fairs and feasts both include and exclude strangers through secrecy and hedonistic 'expenditure' (Maffesoli 1996) which are both manifestations of the same 'aloofness of the masses', the ultimate aim of which is to defend the group from the imposition of political power and its culture.

Fairs constitute a form of hedonistic expenditure in that they are an alternative form of consumption, because of an ethical concern for the ecological impact of consumer goods and because of their spatial character. However, they are inclusive of all those who wish to participate as consumers of ecologically friendly goods or partake of any information about the environment that may be available. In other words, they include even those who do not sympathise with the environmental movement or share its culture, as the fairs are a form of open market. However, fairs are spatially differentiated from other commercial settings, particularly shopping malls, by their open air setting. That is, fairs are 'embedded' in their settings. They occur in a place that is recognisable and distinguishable from other places and, most importantly, because they take place at either City Farm or in a park their ecological character is accentuated. In contrast, shopping malls are 'placeless places', that is a sort of virtual 'shopper-space' that could be everywhere and nowhere in the globe. In other words these are not places where shared emotional bonds can fully establish and express themselves. It is perhaps because of this that shopping malls are often construed by many as commercially aggressive places. Nevertheless, although fairs provide the opportunity for the expression of particular groups and communication within networks of friends and acquaintances, they are transitory, lacking the spatial and temporal permanence of shopping malls.

City Farm's feasts are, on the other hand, less temporally transitory as they occur at least four times a year (for solstices and equinoxes) and consistently occur on the grounds of City Farm. Like fairs the community defines and distinguishes itself through the use of place. However, an explicitly sacred character marks their ecological theme, whereas the sacred may only be implied in the fairs by virtue of their ecological theme. Furthermore, the feasts' collective food consumption reinforces the emotional and symbolic ties of the network of people who gravitate around the City Farm group, in a way that the fairs' individual consumption of ecologically friendly goods does not achieve. Notably, the process of preparing the food for the feasts may contribute to reinforcing such ties, but may also explain some City Farmers' reluctance to consume pre-packaged and pre-processed food. Whereas the City Farmers may not trust the former because of its 'artificiality' (cf. Lupton 1996), food that is prepared for the feasts by City Farmers and their friends may be more trustworthy since trusted, like-minded people were involved in the process of food preparation. Feasts may be indeed be a way of informal 'dining-out' that does not require displays of appropriate public behaviour that public settings, such as restaurants or diners, seem to urge (Lupton 1996).

The seasonal feasts' symbolic structure reinforces the distinction between the purely instrumentalist morality of secular modernism towards the natural, and the spiritual significance attributed to nature to which half of the respondents subscribe. These are indeed 'pagan' celebrations, in the (etymological) sense that the religion of the locality (Maffesoli 1996) links space, or rather place, with cyclical time in ways that are significant to the community's identity. Most importantly, cyclical time shares with the emotional community the same undirected quality: that of survival for its own sake, with no ultimate or abstracted goal. That is, just as the cycles of natural life do not follow linear, unidirectional time that reaches for a goal other than itself, the local community does not follow the path to the political Utopias that the protagonists of History, the bourgeoisie or the proletariat, are said to be fulfilling. On the contrary, cyclical time is intrinsically local and moves in an 'eternal' present. Ultimately, the hedonistic expenditure of the feasts is overtly used to reaffirm and distinguish the groups' identity from a model of society based on universality rather than particularity, globality rather than locality, and on an end-goal to human History that transcends the endless cycles and the boundaries of nature. In other words it can be interpreted as the secularised version of Judeo-Christian salvation, which is often considered the 'opposite' of Paganism.

The other aspect of aloofness, as I indicated above, is 'secrecy'. The atmosphere of the feasts, that is the consumption of 'new age traveller' type clothing and of (mainly) vegetarian food, together with drumming, fire-twirling and -so on, clearly creates an 'alternative culture' atmosphere which is distinguished, and thus excludes those from 'mainstream' culture. Furthermore, as pointed out above, the nocturnal nature of the feasts may tend to exclude those who do not feel safe at night. As Maffesoli argues, "the fact of sharing a habit, an ideology or an ideal determines the being-together and allows the latter to act as a protection against any imposition, from whatever outside source" (Maffesoli 1996:92).

Nevertheless, this does not mean that City Farm is an exclusive club. In fact, while an 'alternative' atmosphere was clearly present, not all those who attended fitted the 'alternative' description. This included both City Farmers and non-City Farmers. What is also of great interest here is that while a few people cultivated City Farm during the daytime, feasts were always well attended by a number of people who did not garden at City Farm. The respondents' statements that City Farm can link itself into other group networks through the feasts certainly seems valid, but the role and significance of collective food consumption in the social and spatial context of feasts should not go unnoticed.

Ideas of nature and community and their mutual interconnection were used to reinforce both the 'environmentalist' representations of decision-making among City Farmers and the ties between groups external to City Farm. However, notions of participation also linked both internal and external social relations. The cyclical nature of the seasons described above shares with the 'environmentalist' decision-making model long-term temporality and a non-linear path or process of transformation. In light of this model, feasts are also part of a long-term community building process. Their informality is inclusive of many strangers who, it appears, prefer a place where the societal dominates, that is where the institutionalised social controls are lacking (cf. McRobbie 1983:424; in Jackson and Thrift 1995). The inclusiveness of strangers is essential in establishing City Farm's own identity as a culturally alternative group of consumers and as a site of consumption; but also in representing City Farm as ideologically different from social organisations based on a clear distinction between the ideologically pure group and the impure, who are usually deemed uncontrolled and emotional.

During feasts the sharing of food or 'commensality' marks the inclusion of the stranger that goes beyond mere tolerance (Maffesoli 1996). This inclusiveness and plurality can be framed in terms of 'triplicity', which break away from dualistic systems of representation to generate plurality. Put simply, "[i]nfinity begins with the third person" (Maffesoli 1996:105). Thus, it could be intimated that the food banquet at City Farm plays precisely the same role of the Christian eucharistic meal. It is an act of effervescence where common ties are 'remembered', "'rendering visible an invisible grace' as the catechism tells us" (Maffesoli 1996:86). In the case of City Farm, what is rendered 'visible' to the participants is the wider urban network to which they belong. To use another Christian symbol, this may be analogous to a 'communion of saints', affirming the links between the group present at City Farm to cognate groups around the city. It is also through the feasts that City Farm constitutes a 'locality' which "like kinship and friendship, ... is the basis of complex network systems that are concentrated in, but not restricted to, bounded spatial entities" (Berner and Korff 1995:213).


What this discussion has shown most of all is that community gardening at City Farm is a learning process bounded by economic and social constraints, and informed by a dialogue between ideological notions derived from social reformist and ecological concerns, but equally originating from a modernist philosophy and culture. These concerns, however, originate not from an ˆ priori rational morality that is expressed in the performance of duties but, rather, from commonly shared sentiments, which in turn fuel the daily sociality of the City Farm group and its manifestations of collective effervescence with related groups.

What has emerged through the focus on sociality is that while the petit-bourgeois ideological constructions of nature subsist within contemporary environmentalism, they also enter into dialogue with the life-world of groups other than the new middle classes which have inherited the bourgeois cultural habits. In other words, ideas never remain the property of one group, but are appropriated by other groups in their specific spatial and temporal context. Furthermore, the process of contextualising ideology within daily life and practices of City Farm educes the internal ideological contradictions. Nevertheless, these contradictions do not lead City Farmers into creating a community of ideological purists because the individuals within City Farm are also part of a number of other groups, be they families, friendship networks, cultural interest groups or political networks. It is because of the extent of the network to which City Farmers belong that fairs and particularly feasts assume a crucial importance in reaffirming City Farm's identity in the social and geographical landscape of Brisbane.



This thesis has attempted to broaden the focus of sociological theorising and research on community gardening by exploring the social and cultural life of Northey Street City Farm, and also by placing City Farm within the context of the dominant consumer culture and the globalization of capital. This approach is a significant departure from previous research on community gardening, which is focused mainly on the micro level of sociological analysis.

The inclusion of consumption in the analysis was motivated by theoretical necessity. That is, community gardening could not be understood as a contemporary social phenomenon unless consumption as a prevalent cultural practice was also included. The research findings have indeed shown that by including consumption the dimensions of emotion, desire and ethics emerged in a more central position. A more traditional focus on production would have probably educed data and produced an analysis focused mainly, or perhaps even exclusively, on ideology or collective representations. But as we have seen, the inclusion of emotion and the ecological ethics of desire for new goods has given us an understanding of ideology as the at least partial and complementary expression of an underlying sociality. This approach has in fact given us the opportunity for understanding City Farm as a 'history from within', grounded in its geographical place and informed by different understandings of time, and constituting a group bound by shared sentiments, at times harmonious and at times conflictual. Consequently, it has set aside an understanding that imposes grand historical projects onto the environmentalism of which City Farm is an expression.

The importance of culture is highlighted by the use of feasts and fairs as strategies for identity, but also for the inclusiveness of strangers and the collective renewal. Put in different terms, many City Farmers are true to the permaculture philosophy they share: social 'weeds' are also included, as they too are part of the social 'ecosystem' of Brisbane, through the sharing of meaningful space-events of the fairs, but mostly through the sharing of food that is symbolic of the shared sentiments that energise the network.

Nevertheless, despite the successful attainment of social network building, the goal of food self-reliance seems to be as yet unrealised in any significant way. This is where City Farm's greatest challenges lie: on the one hand, how does City Farm ensure that decision-making is participatory and democratic, and that it is responsive to community needs, while at the same time retaining both a clear sense of direction and a sense of community? On the other hand how can City Farmers achieve their goals for City Farm while also participating in the market economy, with all the financial, social and cultural pressures that it entails? Whatever solutions City Farmers may envisage in the future, they must by necessity integrate the household, social networks and 'green' or 'ethical' commercial ventures. They must also integrate into their plans the cultural or habitual foundations upon which these spheres of activity are based. To achieve such integration it is necessary to understand in greater detail the social and urban context of the network of which it is part. More specifically, the social and economic factors that constrain City Farm's principal ethical aim of ecological self-reliance, namely unemployment and part-time employment, time restrictions due to employment, family and other commitments, could be used to City Farm's advantage. To use a permaculture dictum, there is scope to view the problems as the solutions.

Clearly, it is necessary to carry out further qualitative and quantitative research on the social and economic activities of the City Farmers' households in relation to the various group networks they are embedded in, and in relation to their geographical context. Ultimately, this may mean an expansion of the definition of a City Farmer from one who gardens at the site of Northey Street City Farm, to anyone who indirectly but consciously contributes the development of City Farm. Furthermore, because the present findings were derived from a small sample it is hoped that they will be substantiated and generalised to other community gardening groups by further research on larger samples of community gardeners.

However, planning based on such an expanded definition of a City Farmer should not be a matter of merely co-ordinating human, material and financial capital. Future planning for City Farm must place its cultural basis in a central position, because City Farm principally satisfies a need for sociality. In this respect City Farm could be the site of other cultural events, other than feasts or fairs. However, if the household is to be more fully integrated into an expanded version of City Farm's production and consumption activities, household production and consumption activities appropriate to the aims of City Farm must be turned into habits, in the same way that eating take-way food on a Wednesday might be a habit.

Ultimately, City Farmers need to develop 'conscious habits'. This may leave us, in a way, with a conceptual oxymoron, but this is nothing new. As we have seen individuals and groups continue to live with and struggle with unconscious habits that are oriented towards the satisfaction of immediate needs, and their ability to give meaning and direction to life through the use of mental representations, ambiguous as they may at times be. But what matters the most is that the order we impose through such practices is not just any order, but an order that favours the cultivation of a compassionate attitude towards people and nature, and that starves our (not so) modern obsession to control, ignore or destroy what we do not understand.

Furthermore, because of the smallness of the City Farm sample it is difficult to generalise to the other Australian community garden groups as a whole to validate the conclusions of this thesis. As we have seen group activities are significantly shaped by local conditions, namely, the social uses and constructions of space and time. Further research would hopefully have an impact in City Farm's future policy and planning directions.


Atkinson, S.J. (1995), 'Approaches and actors in urban food security in developing countries'. Habitat International, 19 (2), 151-163.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (1992), Home production of selected foodstuffs, Australia, April 1992. Cat. No. 7110.0. Canberra: ABS.

Bauman, Z. (1997), Postmodernity and its discontents. New York: New York University Press.

Berner, R. and Korff, R. (1995), 'Globalization and local resistance: the creation of localities in Manila and Bangkok'. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 19 (2), 208-222.

Bourdieu, P. (1984), Distinction: a social critique of the judgement of taste. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Campbell, C. (1995), 'The sociology of consumption'. In Miller, D. (ed.), Acknowledging consumption: a review of new studies. New York: Routledge: 96-126.

Coleman, D.A. (1994), Ecopolitics: building a green society. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Curran, J.A. (1993), 'We grow people: community gardening programs as solutions to the problems of low income neighbourhoods'. Unpublished paper. Rutgers University.

Durkheim, E. ([1897] 1951), Suicide: a study in sociology. New York: Free Press.

Eder, K. (1990), 'The rise of counter-culture movements against modernity: nature as a new field of class struggle'. Theory, Culture and Society, 7, 21-47.

Eliot, C. (1983), Growing in the city: employment, education and recreation in Australian city farms and community gardens. Armidale: Social Impact Publications.

Featherstone, M. (1995), Undoing culture: globalizations, postmodernism and identity. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Funches, B. (1992), 'The role of urban agriculture in reclaiming the urban environment'. In Walter, B., Arkin, L. and Crenshaw, R. (eds), Sustainable cities: concepts and strategies for eco-city development. Los Angeles: Eco-home Media: 133-139.

Gabriel Y. and Lang, T. (1995), The unmanageable consumer: contemporary consumption and its fragmentations. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Gutman, P. (1986), 'Feeding the city: potential and limits of self-reliance'. Development, 4, 22-26.

Halbwachs, M. (1968), La MŽmoire collective. Paris: PUP.

Hester, Jr. R.T. (1989), 'Social values in open space design'. Places, 6 (1), 68-77.

Jackson, P. and Thrift, N. (1995), 'Geographies of consumption'. In Miller, D. (ed.), Acknowledging consumption: a review of new studies. New York: Routledge: 204-237.

Jamison, M.S. (1985), 'The joys of gardening, collectivist and bureaucratic cultures in conflict'. The Sociological Quarterly, 26 (4), 473-490.

Katz, D. (1991), 'Metropolitan food systems and the sustainable city'. In Van der Ryn, S. and Calthorpe, P. (eds), Sustainable communities: a new design synthesis for cities, suburbs and towns. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books: 148-166.

Landman, R.H. (1993), Creating community in the city: cooperatives and community gardening in Washington, D.C. Westport: Bergin and Garvey.

Lang, P. (1994). Lets work: rebuilding the local economy. Bristol: Grover Books.

Lupton, D. (1996), Food, the body and the self. London: Sage Publications.

Maffesoli, M. (1996), The time of the tribes: the decline of individualism in mass society. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Marx, K. ([1844] 1971), 'Economic and philosophical manuscripts'. In Thompson K. and Tunstall, J. (eds), Sociological perspectives. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 51-62.

Mestrovic, S.G. (1991), The coming fin de sicle: an application of Durkheim's sociology to modernity and postmodernism. London: Routledge.

Mestrovic, S.G. (1993), The barbarian temperament: toward a postmodern critical theory. New York: Routledge.

Miller, D. (1995), 'Consumption as the vanguard of history: a polemic by way of an introduction'. In Miller, D. (Ed.), Acknowledging consumption: a review of new studies. New York: Routledge: 1-57.

Minichiello, V., Aroni, R., Timewell, E. and Alexander, L. (1995), In-depth interviewing: researching people. Melbourne: Longman Chesire.

Mollison, B. (1988), Permaculture: a designer's manual. Tyalgum: Tagari Publications.

Mougeot, L.J.A. (1994), Urban food production: evolution, official support and significance. Cities Feeding People Series Report 8. Ottawa: International Development Research Centre.

Mullins, P. (1981a), 'Theoretical perspectives on Australian urbanisation: 1. Material components in the reproduction of Australian labour power'. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology, 17 (1), 65-76.

Mullins, P. (1981b), 'Theoretical perspectives on Australian urbanisation: 2. Social components in the reproduction of Australian labour power'. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology, 17 (3), 35-43.

Mullins, P. (1987), 'Community and urban movements'. Sociological Review, 35 (2), 347-369.

Mullins, P. (1995), 'Households, consumerism and metropolitan development', in Troy, P. (ed.), Australian cities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 87-109.

Mullins, P. and Kynaston, C. (1998), 'The household production of subsistence goods: the urban peasantry reassessed'. Unpublished paper. Department of Anthropology and Sociology, University of Queensland.

Mullins, P. and West, M. (1998) 'Windsor twenty-five years on: the continuing presence of a 1970s freeway plan in inner Brisbane'. Urban Policy, 16 (3), 199-210.

Munro-Clark, M. (1986), Communes in rural Australia: the movement since 1970. Sydney: Hale and Iremonger in association with the Ian Buchan Fell Research Centre.

Neuman, W.L. (1994), Social research methods: qualitative and quantitative approaches. Needham Heights: Allyn and Bacon.

Nieto, G. and FranzŽ, A. (1997), 'The projection of social conflict through urban space: the Plaza de la Corona Boreal'. Current Anthropology, 38 (3), 461-466.

Patel. I.C. (1991), 'Gardening's socioeconomic impacts: community gardening in an urban setting'. Journal of Extension, Winter, 7-8.

Phillips, P. (1996), Australian city farms, community gardens, and enterprise centres: inventory. Hobart: Symbioun Australia.

Polhemus, T. (1994), Street style: from sidewalk to catwalk. London: Thames and Hudson.

Ritzer, G. (1998), The McDonaldization thesis: explorations and extensions. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Rose, R and Tikhomirov, Y. (1993), 'Who grows food in Russia and Eastern Europe?' Post-Soviet Geography, 34 (2), 111-126.

Sachs, I. (1986), 'Work, food and energy in urban ecodevelopment'. Development, 4, 2-10.

Shilling, C. and Mellor, P.A. (1998), 'Durkheim, morality and modernity: collective effervescence, homo duplex and the sources of moral action'. British Journal of Sociology, 49 (2), 193-209.

Shmelzkopf, K. (1996), 'Urban community gardens as contested space'. Geographical Review, 85, 364-381.

Sommers, P. and Smit, J. (1994), Promoting urban agriculture: a strategy framework for planners in North America, Europe and Asia. Cities Feeding People Series Report 9. Ottawa: International Development Research Centre.

Spradley, J.P. (1980), Participant observation. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Strauss, A.L. and Corbin, J. (1990), Basics of qualitative research: grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.

Sunday Mail (1974, January 27), Great floods kill three, damage in millions. And more to come, p.1.

World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) Our common future. New York: Oxford University Press.

Search Our Site[new]

pointer Return to Contents' Page pointer

Revised Saturday, February 10, 2001

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture