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Urban farming starts at home

Wayne Wadsworth with his aquaculture tank in the backyard of the Reversing Greenhouse House in Goonellabah.
Wayne Wadsworth with his aquaculture tank in the backyard of the Reversing Greenhouse House in Goonellabah.

It looks like an ordinary suburban house in an ordinary street. But out the front, growing along the footpath are strawberries, spinach, beans, nasturtiums and passionfruit. Out the back is an aquaculture tank with fish and aquatic plants, a chook pen, vegetable garden, worm farm, compost and biochar oven.

It’s the Reversing Greenhouse House and the site of a new urban farming project in Goonellabah that will be opened to the public later in the year.

The project is the brainchild of Wayne Wadsworth, a permaculturist who wants to create a sustainable paradise in suburbia and he wants to empower everyone else to do the same. His goal is to produce surplus food, energy and water and reduce the household’s carbon footprint. With a small brick house and backyard about 30m by 30m in size, he’s working with an average house on Ballina Road and wants to show people it is possible to live a sustainable life in town.

“It’s great to see kids walking past the nature strip out the front and pick a strawberry or a passionfruit,” Wayne said.

The front garden is in a state of conversion from being a grass lawn to a mulched vegetable garden and fruit tree orchard. There are pot plant garden stacks filled with strawberries and herbs which Wayne said are perfect for people living in units.

“Some simple changes can make all the difference and it doesn’t matter where you live,” Wayne said. “We have to reduce the amount of carbon in the air and localise food production to minimise the transportation of food. With oil supplies running out, farming is the only way we will save ourselves. Turning off oil is a good thing: it will revitalise our rural communities and allow farmers to be caretakers of the land.”

Wayne believes if more people can produce food in urban areas then rural land could be used for growing large-scale grain crops, or crops to make products currently made out of oil such as bioplastics, or hemp for clothes.

In the backyard in his 1000 litre tank, Wayne currently has a few perch, but said it can hold 10-20 perch or 40-60 crayfish. There are plant pots sitting in the pipes running around the tank, which are watered with the nutrient rich tank water. Deep-rooted plants are planted in the garden to pick up nutrients deep in the soil and are even used in the tank to filter the water. He has created a biological cycle where everything is used: from food scraps which feed the worms, which in turn feed the garden and the chooks.

On the roof of the house, Wayne has installed a three kilowatt solar energy system and said the household only uses half of the power generated from it, with the rest being fed back into the grid and generating about $3000 a year in income. Next to it is an efficient solar tube-style hot water system that only needs two hours of sunlight to generate hot water for showers and washing clothes.

“For a $20,000 investment, people can have a sustainable house,” Wayne said

Future plans include installing more water tanks and a grey water system to reuse kitchen and shower water in the garden.

With a background in setting up city farms and working on sustainability projects in Australia and overseas, Wayne hopes to continue to advise people about how to turn waste into wealth and create resilient, together communities.

“If you can do it here, you can do it anywhere,” Wayne said.

For more information, you can contact Wayne by email at hellowadzy@gmail.com.


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