The not-for-profit community farm at The Cape is expected to produce 12 tonnes of fresh produce per annum while reusing water and capturing and composting local green waste.

The Cape Community Farm project represents a $2 million investment in the sustainable success of the innovative housing estate.

THERE’S no disputing the success of The Cape sustainable estate at Cape Paterson.

With just 42 lots remaining from the overall development of 234 residential allotments, it has been a financial success for the developers, but the project has also made its mark Australia-wide for energy efficiency and sustainable design.

There’s also evidence The Cape has boosted home values right across the town, with Cape Paterson emerging as number one for fastest-growing home values in Australia (towns under 1000 residences) with an increase of 17.9 per cent in the 12 months to December 2020.

And values have continued that trend in 2021, according to local agents.

The Cape sustainable estate continues to innovate and pave the way forward in sustainable living by designing and building a large-scale urban farm to complement the 8-star energy and water-efficient homes being built across the estate.

The farm, representing an investment of $2 million, under construction and set for completion in mid-2022, will feature market garden beds, large areas for member gardeners, beekeeping, fruit trees, composting, rainwater harvesting, a community nursery, farmhouse, residents building, performance area and outdoor teaching and community gathering areas.

The community farm will complement the significant number of households at The Cape who are growing food, helping to demonstrate how communities across Australia can become more circular economy and food secure by harnessing and diverting rainwater and converting organic waste streams into producing large volumes of food in backyards and neighbourhood spaces.

Showing the way forward in improving food security, The Cape community farm beautifully balances the other bill-busting initiatives in this state-of-the-art sustainable estate, where gas-free, 8-star energy efficient all-electric homes are powering themselves using solar power and reducing energy bills in the process.

Low costs, strong gains
Homes at The Cape are averaging under $500 per annum, with several homeowners reporting zero energy bills. All homes are equipped with 32 Amp electric vehicle charge points to allow households to charge electric vehicles, allowing residents to eliminate petrol bills through the use of long-range electric vehicles in coming years.

Cape director Brendan Condon said this week: “The community farm has been a fun process to design and it is great to see it now being built.
“In preparing to build the farm, our team researched and visited community gardens all over Australia, refined our designs with survey feedback from our residents, and had input from community garden experts, landscape architects, engineers and horticulturalists.

“The final stage of the design has been helped no end by the patient input of one of our residents, Graeme McAlpine who, with his wife Alison, ran a commercial nursery and grew large volumes of food at their previous home in Gippsland, as well as building design input from Tad Hendry from Adapt Design Group. The end result is a beautiful surfboard-shaped garden that will be highly productive, water-efficient, biodiverse and fun to visit and experience.

“We hope that The Cape urban farm inspires more well designed, water-efficient farms in other new estates and communities from around Australia,” Mr Condon said.

“Cities and communities have the key ingredients to grow large volumes of fresh healthy local food, including abundant rainwater runoff currently diverted to stormwater drains, and abundant organic waste streams such as foodwaste and greenwaste that could easily be composted locally and diverted into local food production. With looming challenges of a heating, drying climate making life harder for our farmers, The Cape team believe that all new communities should plan for community scale and lot scale food production and urban farming, for the diverse range of benefits they bring.

“The Cape is also demonstrating that urban farms can also be a useful tool for absorbing rainwater runoff, promoting urban cooling, improving water quality and protecting downstream waterways. All of these initiatives help build food-abundant, sustainable communities where food sharing becomes commonplace.

“The Cape farm promises to be a new welcoming attraction for Cape Paterson. We look forward to seeing people walking or cycling in visit the farm, becoming active members, attending events or just drop by for a wood-fired pizza and glass of wine or a coffee in future.”

Cape farm’s unique design
The Cape community farm is being designed and built by The Sustainable Landscape Company with help from Australian urban farming company Biofilta and has been designed with input from the residents of The Cape.

The farm sits on a 5000 square metre footprint in the heart of The Cape community adjacent to the children’s playground and wetlands and the future conference centre and café.

The Cape community farm is a unique design and large-scale facility, which promises to deliver a wide range of benefits for the Cape Paterson and Bass Coast community, including:
• Production of more than 12 tonnes of fresh produce per annum for distribution to the members and community.
• Increased social contact, friendships and exercise for garden members and the community, improving social connection and health outcomes.
• Reduced food bills and improving nutrition.
• Demonstration of circular economy principles through closing nutrient loops with the capture and composting of local green waste and food waste.
• Reducing food miles to food metres, reducing carbon emissions.
• Strengthening household food growing at Cape Paterson through the expertise home farmers can access at The Cape community farm.
• Different tiers of memberships, including active gardener memberships and potential for broader community participation through bulk food purchases and a food box scheme.
• Rainwater harvesting for food production to reduce storm water runoff and protect downstream waterways.
• Education and training in a wide range of topics such as urban farming, food preserving, composting, seed saving, beekeeping, zero waste living, pest and weed control, cooking and much more.
• A versatile range of spaces in the farm for celebrations, events, wood fired pizza and wine afternoons.
• Potential for ecotourism, with tours by schools, urban farming groups, universities, councils and tourists, with this type of visitation already on the increase at The Cape as shown by visits by six school groups in the past six weeks.

The Cape farm features a range of different approaches to food production, with water-efficient wicking beds as the main system in use. Wicking beds are raised ergonomic garden beds that store more than 100 litres of water per square meter in the base of the garden bed, reducing watering requirements to about once a week during summer, and once a month during winter, saving large amounts of water and time for gardeners.

One standout feature of the garden is Australian made Foodcube wicking beds, designed and manufactured in Melbourne from around 80 per cent recycled food-grade plastic. These wicking beds are able to be joined together in large rows allowing for large areas of the garden to be watered from one point. At The Cape community farm, the Foodcubes will be raised up off the ground making gardening easy and ergonomic for gardeners of all ages. In addition to wicking beds, the farm will feature large areas of garden beds for perennial herbs and fruit trees and habitat plants.

Future of living today
With Australians spending more time at home, many households are looking at growing their own fresh produce to build self-sufficiency and self-reliance. The Cape community farm complements and strengthens the food growing efforts of a growing number of households at The Cape, a number of which have installed modular water-efficient Foodcube home farms to reduce and eliminate food bills.

Over the past 12 months, the Australian designed and manufactured system has been deployed to urban farmers, schools, workplaces, and also food vulnerable and water-stressed communities such local and Indigenous communities in Australia and the Pacific Islands who are having difficulties growing and accessing fresh produce.

The Cape community farm will be run as a not-for-profit. The farm has been designed and built so that it has significant income-generating potential, including memberships, a food box scheme, tours, education, facility hire, nursery plant sales and event spaces to name a few.

These income streams will resource the hiring of a skilled urban farmer employed by the community garden to oversee the farm.