by Neometro

Greening RMIT

Ideas - by Open Journal

Ben McMenamin, Project Manager of Greening RMIT talks to Open Journal about urban gardening and sustainable food. 


Greening RMIT started in mid 2013 when I started working at Realfoods cafe, the Student Union run organic cafe on campus. As a chef, I have always been interested in the freshest food and thought it would be amazing to have a small community garden where we could grow food for the cafe. After a lot of asking around, we met a group on campus called The Matter of Landscape who very kindly allowed us to share their green roof space to grow food. Now we not only grow food, but we host a number of educational workshops, which we call ‘skill shares’ , that teach students about the benefits of growing their own food at home.

We attract a wide range of students with the project, anyone who is interested in food or gardening! In saying that, we do get a lot of students from the Bachelor of Society and Environment program (the degree I completed last year) and students from the School of Landscape Architecture (because of The Matter of Landscape project). Because we work closely with Realfoods cafe, which is run mostly on student volunteers from a wide range of disciplines, we get to see students from a very diverse cultural and academic background.

Courtesy of Greening RMIT

Courtesy of Greening RMIT

Broadly speaking, our main goal is to promote sustainable food and gardening on campus. This takes on a lot of different forms. Our ‘skill share’ workshops are all about giving hands on gardening skills in a kind of ‘living laboratory’, where are larger events (such as community dinners or documentary screenings) are all about building a community of people who want to see a more sustainable university. Currently, we are growing green beans, purple podded peas, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, salad leaves and heaps of different herbs!

The university has been really supportive of our project. The biggest stroke of luck for us was meeting The Matter of Landscape team and them allowing us to join in their project. There is a lot of renovations happening at RMIT at the moment and my fingers are crossed for more green roof and garden spaces!

Courtesy of Greening RMIT

Courtesy of Greening RMIT

There are loads so many benefits for engaging with urban agriculture such as reduced food miles, increased social cohesion (in community gardens), a larger respect and understanding of food production, and increased urban biodiversity. It just seems to make sense to me; we should be growing the food where we eat it! It is a particular passion of mine to see more food being produced in cities and I believe urban agriculture will have a large part to play in the future. There are significant challenges for urban agriculture, from planning regulations to community support, but these challenges are not insurmountable and there are a huge number of inspired individuals working to create a more sustainable and fair food system in Australia.

Courtesy of Greening RMIT

Courtesy of Greening RMIT


My advice for anyone looking to get involved with urban gardening is simple: Just Plant Something! It doesn’t matter what it is, put something in the ground and watch it grow. When you grow your own food you gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for it and you will find yourself wasting less and respecting food more. You might fail the first time, but don’t worry – it happens to everyone! Keep trying and you will get so much satisfaction when it works. Nothing tastes better than food you have grown yourself. I always come back to a quote from Jamie Oliver who said “food is a gateway drug to sustainability”, if you start growing your own food, you never know where you might end up!

Greening RMIT updates can be found via Facebook and Instagram.




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