The Lyttleton Stores 'Backyard Grower' System: Moving Toward Local, Circular Economies

Written by Manu


I never tire of marveling at the incredible diversity of climates and ecosystems here in the Blue Mountains. It is an incredible asset, as it means we can grow a diversity of foods within a relatively small area. Our backyard growers from the lower Mountains will be bringing us ginger and turmeric soon, mid-Mountains growers are providing us with citrus, whereas upper Mountains growers will be keeping us stocked with apples throughout autumn. Our local farmers, including Erica and Hayden at Epicurean Harvest in Hartley and Aaron at Harvest Farms in Bilpin, also supply us with wonderful, nutrient-rich, organic local produce. What a wonderful, resilient space we have the potential to create, just through cultivating this diversity of growers, scales and climates!

Our 'Lyttleton Backyard Grower' system allows local backyard growers register with us, bring in their excess produce and swap its cost price for store credit. This allows growers to buy anything they may require within the shop, be it a loaf of bread, some veggies or a workshop. I organise regular meet ups every couple of months, where backyard growers can get together and discuss their successes and turbulations, share seeds, knowledge and experiences.

The financial, environmental and social benefits of growing and eating local organic food are quite substantial, namely through eliminating food miles and providing individuals with a greater sense of responsibility towards their immediate environment. We must, however, also see its value in building social relationships. Our 'office cubicle' way of living is making us lonely, depressed, and anxious, and people in our peri-urban environments are slowly reacting to this. Things are slowly changing. Social media groups have re-established local swap and barter systems through Facebook groups such as 'Pay it Forward', and some of us are keen to take this concept back to our streets and local spaces.

I see this at Springwood Community Garden, as older members, who walk up the hill from the local aged care facility, bump into young mums and/or dads, who feel they need to be out and about. The inter-generational relationships I have seen come out of a simple communal garden space are immense and important. We have forgotten how important inter-generational contact is for our own well-being.

In our little veggie patch and shop, we are striving to empower people to grow their own food, come to our meet ups and exchange knowledge and experiences. We do our best to entice you to come to your local produce shop rather than shop in a supermarket. So come and visit, make connections, hang out in our community hub, read from our reference library, have a chat, and, of course, eat yummy, local food together.