Agropolis Urban Farm. Photo by Eroica Ritchie

 

A couple of times a week, I take a clik-clak container full of organic waste over to a compost heap, which is on the site of one of my old flats. This is Agropolis, on Poplar St. It is an urban farming initiative, that was launched at last year’s FESTA, and has grown – slowly, organically – over summer. We have about six raised beds, growing lettuces, rocket, tomatoes, cauliflower and other seasonal goodies. I don’t do much of the gardening stuff – I mainly do heavy lifting, spreading bark chips and building planters. But since we moved back into town in December, my partner and I have become a regular part of the Agropolis community.

So when I was reading through the almost advertorial rebuild lift-out that was in the Herald last Tuesday, I almost choked on my plowman’s lunch upon reading this story, which I assume was put there by the company in question, Aecom:

Last year, Aecom launched Agropolis, as part of a collaborative initiative between FESTA, Garden City 2.0, Aecom, A Local Food Project, Juliet Moore, Andreas Wesener (Lincoln University), Liv Worsnop (Plant Gang) and Rosie Brittenden (Christchurch Youth Council)

Hang on. Aecom launched Agropolis? I’ve asked some of the people who ran FESTA, and helped to get Agropolis off the ground, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. Agropolis is a genuine, community-run project, that would still just be a crazy idea in someone’s head if it wasn’t for the determination and vision of people like Bailey Peryman, Jessica Halliday, Juliet Moore and others. For Aecom to claim that they launched it – the way the story is written, they make it seem like it was their idea – is a complete misrepresentation of the project. But wait – it gets worse:

Corporate social responsibility initiatives such as Agropolis can draw on the strong sense of community among Christchurch residents and businesses.

Corporate social responsibility initiatives such as Agropolis. Come again? The Agropolis that I am a part of is a community-run garden, with volunteers who give their own time and money to try and make Christchurch are more liveable, sustainable place. I am not part of some faceless-corporation’s Corporate social responsibility initiative. I am not blistering my hands at the end of a rake so that some guy in an Auckland boardroom can feel slightly less guilty whilst he necks his fourth macchiato of the day.

Yes, Aecom contributed money to the project – I understand it was a number with three zeroes, so probably less than what they spent on the staff Christmas party. Probably less than what it cost to get this “story” placed in the Herald. I also understand that they were incredibly difficult to deal with, trying to place their legal and workplace regulations onto a small volunteer organisation. To me, this represents the worst aspects of big corporates exploiting the emotional pull of the earthquakes for their own purposes, throwing a token amount of money at a group, then turning around and claiming that they were instrumental in its establishment and success. Agropolis is not a corporate social responsibility initiative. It is a community, collaborative, transitional project that as removed as possible from that hollow, meaningless phrase.

 

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