In January 1994, with the support of parent organisation Men of the Trees and the East Perth Redevelopment Authority; Perth City Farm was created by an inspirational and dedicated team comprising of Rosanne Scott, Chris Ferreira , Clayton Chipper and Neal Bodel.
Learn more about Men of the Trees here.
Located on a site between the railway and the Education Department in East Perth, the area was formerly used as an engineering workshop by Mobil, a depot for Perth’s trolley buses, and an engineering foundry. The half-hectare site contained dilapidated warehouses, a courtyard and a vacant lot. The ‘City Farm’ team secured a two-year ‘peppercorn lease’ from the East Perth Redevelopment Authority for the site.
The group had a vision of transforming the area from a toxic wasteland into a thriving community garden and cultural hub that could benefit everyone. Soon, almost 30 people started work on the site to clear the area and remove as much of the scrap heap as they could. The workforce was comprised of volunteers and unemployed youth who wanted to see the area transform into a thriving community centre. Soon, there was a small vegetable patch planted near the entrance to the farm and one of the old warehouses was being converted into a classroom.
Find out more about the history of education at PCF here
The plan for the site was to incorporate the environment, education, arts and healthy food all in the one place. The warehouses were to be transformed into an education centre, a small café and coffee shop, and an art gallery. The remaining two buildings would be used as a blacksmiths workshop and an artist’s studio. In the centre of it all, an open courtyard would connect all areas together in a cultural square; an ideal location for bands and buskers to perform or artists to showcase their work. The whole site would be surrounded by more than 500 trees and shrubs, 5000 vegetable plants, chickens, and maybe even a few cows or sheep! First step of the project however was to prepare the site for all of this work; decades of heavy metal and chemical pollution on the site left the soil extremely toxic; it was too contaminated to even touch.
In April 1994 the first Landcare and Environment Action Program (LEAP) training course commenced. The 26-week course taught participants nursery and land conservation techniques, plant propagation, rural and urban landcare, permaculture design, and horticulture. The LEAP training course was aimed at unemployed youth aged 15-25 and was administered by the Western Australian Department of Training and Men of The Trees WA, and funded by the Federal Department of Employment, Education and Training. The LEAP courses stayed active at Perth City Farm until August 1996 when the Federal Government decided to finalise the program.
In 1996 Neal Bodel left the management team at Perth City Farm to pursue other projects, from this time onwards Rosanne and Thom Scott took over the coordination of the farm. It wasn’t long before the farm started hosting a huge range of events including festivals, art exhibitions, markets, live music events, workshops, and parties (including some that would last an entire weekend!). The style of events hosted at City Farm brought young people together from all over Perth and encouraged immense community participation and social connection.
While there was a huge focus on the arts at City Farm, it wasn’t all just multi-day parties and festivals! The site became a hub for environmental education and gardening workshops. School groups would tour the site to learn the ease and importance setting up their own gardens, TAFE students could come and learn permaculture, horticulture, sustainable living and the importance of cultural links to the natural world.
In 1999 it became apparent that the future of Perth City Farm was uncertain. A site that had thrived and produced a huge amount of social capital over the previous 5 years was suddenly under threat. Despite teaching new skills and knowledge to countless unemployed youths, spreading the word of permaculture and environmental protection, aiding in TAFE education and introducing school groups to the concept of home gardening – despite all the good that Perth City Farm had created from a toxic wasteland, there were talks about high rise development and car parks for the site.
Thom, Rosanne, and a community group who called themselves the ‘Save City Farm Action Group’ fought a peaceful battle with the authorities to keep the site over a series of months. The protest group received support from the media and local community to help spread the message. By February 2000 the State Premier Richard Court and Minister for Employment and Training Mike Board announced a two-year lease extension and a promise to find a new long-term site. Finally, in July 2002, the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure announced a 40-year peppercorn lease of the site; ensuring the position of Perth City Farm for the future and finally allowing the management board the freedom for long-term planning.
Despite being given the lease by the State Government to keep the site – Perth City Farm does not receive any government funding to help with its operation, apart from the initial funding to help clean the site up. To assist with the various ventures of Perth City Farm, we often apply for grants for particular events and projects. In 2002 the Farm was awarded a Waste Authority Grant and more recently; a
$20 000 grant in 2015 to create a community recycling hub on site.
In 2005, just 11 years after an idea was born at a toxic wasteland – Perth City Farm was awarded organic certification. This also meant the Perth City Farm Saturday Farmer’s Market was the first market in WA to produce only certified organic produce. 2005 was also the year that Brown Street was renamed City Farm Place.
Over the next few years management changed a few times; Clayton Chipper returned in 2011 to manage the Farm for a year before July Broad and Michael Forte co-managed in 2012, changing hands again to Green World Revolution in 2013 and then to David Seagrand in 2014. A lot changed in the few years that Thom and Rosanne were gone and 2015 they returned on a mission to put Perth City Farm back on the track it was always meant for - to be a living example for the productive uses for unused or blighted inner city land; providing learning experiences to people of all ages, teaching skills that can be used in the workforce, promoting social capital and community engagement, and educating people on the importance and ease of permaculture and sustainable living practises.
More recently, Perth City Farm signed onto a partnership with the state’s Work for the Dole (WFTD) program which aims to give work experience, skills and valuable knowledge in permaculture and sustainability to unemployed people of all ages in WA. We are currently host 3 different WFTD programs including a furniture rebuild and restore project, horticultural experience and training in administration techniques.