The Suburban Harvest … food in our own backyard

Tuesday 11 July 2017 | 5.00 - 6.30PM

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Law School Foyer | New Law School Eastern Avenue | University of Sydney


Exploring the past, present, and future for urban food production.

In association with Sydney Ideas

Australian suburbs have been a site of food production for over one hundred years. This seminar explores the past, present and future for urban food production. Who are the suburban harvesters? What do these histories tell us about the cultures and values of suburban Australia? In an era of rapid social, environmental and economic change, how can the suburban harvest contribute to a vision of a more just and sustainable urban food system?


  • Dr Brian Jones,  Sydney Institute of Agriculture
  • Dr Jennifer Kent, Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning
  • Dr Laura Fisher, Sydney College of the Arts
  • Ananth Gopal, University of Wollongong

Brian Jones After completing a degree in horticulture in Sydney, Brian went to France to do a PhD in plant molecular genetics. Combining his interests in basic science and horticulture, Brian has spent much of his career in Europe, working in fundamental biology and molecular breeding. Now back in Australia at the University of Sydney, Brian continues to work on improving yield capacity in crop species through the application of molecular genetics, but, having recognized that it makes little sense to incrementally improve yield capacity whilst wasting up to 40% of the food that we currently produce, Brian is now also investigating the contribution that urban food production and food waste minimization can have on the sustainability of the food system.

Jennifer Kent is a University of Sydney Research Fellow in the Urban and Regional Planning program at the University of Sydney. Jennifer’s research interests are at the intersections between urban planning, transport and human health and she is widely considered one of the leading urban planning scholars on healthy built environments in Australia. Jennifer publishes regularly in high ranking scholarly journals and her work has been used to inform policy development in NSW and Australia, including Sydney’s most recent metropolitan strategy – A Plan for Growing Sydney.

Laura Fisher is a post-doctoral research fellow at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. Her writings have explored environmentalism in socially engaged art, urban cycling and land use cultures, Australian Indigenous art and cross-cultural encounters. Laura’s current work marries social research and collaborative creative practice, and concerns the role artists are playing in bridging the rural/urban divide globally. She is exploring several projects that are responding to rural depopulation, environmental degradation, food economies and conflicts over land use.

Ananth Gopal is an actor and geographer focused on food and environmental issues. He teaches cultural geography at the Universities of Melbourne and Wollongong. He is a doctoral student at the Australian Centre of Cultural Environmental Research (University of Wollongong). His doctoral research sits within an ARC Discovery (2014-2016) project titled, ‘Sustainability and climate change adaptation: unlocking the potential of ethnic diversity’. His work focuses on the household and local neighbourhood scale. Specifically, he is exploring the diverse food gardening and growing practices of three generations of ethnic minority migrants in the Illawarra, and is more broadly interested in the emergent ecological knowledge that germinates from innocuous places and practices.

Series Chair: Dr Alana Mann, Department of Media and Communications
Alana Mann joined the University of Sydney in 2007 after a professional career in the media and non-profit sectors. Her teaching and research focus on how ordinary citizens get voice in policy debates regarding wicked problems such as food security and climate change. Her book Global Activism in Food Politics: Power Shift was published in 2014.

Currently, Alana is involved in cross-disciplinary research projects concerning food systems with colleagues in the Sydney Environment Institute (SEI) and the Charles Perkins Centre. She is on a Faculty-wide project team exploring the crisis of ‘post-truth’ discourse, funded through the Sydney Research Excellence Initiative (SREI, 2017), and is co-CI on an Education Innovation project based in Glebe, the Social Justice Learning Lab. Her international collaborations include a comparative study of ‘land-grabbing’ with researchers in Brazil and South East Asia.

Alana regularly speaks about her research at public events such as Sydney Ideas, Raising the Bar and Outside the Square, and has been an invited speaker at events such as Food and Words. She is Chair of the SEI Food@Sydney seminar series.