Joe’s Market Garden
Located in Coburg, 2kms north of CERES along the Merri Creek bike path, this two acre plot has been farmed continuously by Chinese and Italian gardeners for over 150 years – Joe’s Market Garden is Melbourne’s last surviving inner city market garden.
In 2003 CERES began farming here under the guidance of Joe Garita, whose father bought the land in the 1945. Previously known as the Merri Creek Market Garden, Joe’s Garden is our second certified organic farm growing organic herbs and vegetables. Irrigation water is taken from the mains supply and a 100,000 litre underground water tank collects rainwater from neighbouring town houses. All produce grown is sold through our CERES Fair Food enterprise and can be found in delivery veggie boxes that you order. We have recently opened a farm gate stall each Saturday morning where you can buy direct from our resident farmer. So come on down and say hello!
If you would like to find out more email email@example.com
The Joe’s Garden also doubles as a training space. Each year, students complete part of their training at the garden, gaining valuable hands on work experience. Each week members of the local community volunteer helping to plant and harvest our produce. If you are interested in volunteering please see our volunteer page for more information.
We also have a corporate volunteer program with staff from different organisations joining us each week to escape the office, get their hands dirty and help us grow food for our community. To find out more about joining our corporate volunteer program please email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Remembering Joe Garita
by Chris Ennis March 2015
Joe Garita was 89 years old when he passed away this year. You might have seen him over the years in his Merri Creek market garden working amid his broad beans. Joe has grown vegetables here since his parents bought the land from Chinese market gardeners in 1945. On that small patch Joe and his wife, Jean, raised seven children and saw the city grow around them. One by one the neighbouring market gardens and dairies that fed the first European settlers turned into houses until finally Joe’s hectare of vegetables was the last market garden in inner-Melbourne; an island of beans, chicory, tomatoes and rapa surrounded by a sea of tin and tile roofs.
A freeway down the Merri was proposed and fought off, supermarkets grew, corner grocers began to disappear and soon many small farmers went with them. But Joe patiently kept planting his crops, kept taking the harvest to Footscray wholesale market on his old flat-bed Toyota.
In 2003 with an eye on retirement Joe began handing over his market garden to CERES. He gave it over a couple of rows at a time – it took three years until he had passed on the whole farm. I didn’t get it at the time but came to realise that he was giving CERES an apprenticeship of sorts, making sure we’d know how to take care of the land he’d stewarded for 60 years. When that was done he kept helping, leading the way, gently pointing out what he saw then leaving it up to us to either learn from his advice or repeat our mistakes.
I learned many things from Joe about being a good farmer but I think I learned more from him about being a good person. He was a forgiving man and despite the many hard things that had happened in his life, he just got on with what was in front of him. When I got mad at people for stealing our zucchinis or broad beans he would brush it off with a story and an infectious giggle that would always turn my frown into a smile.
In the few weeks before he died a stream of family and friends came to say goodbye, to hold his hand, hug him and hear him say “Hey…” in the special welcoming way he had. Joe was a big tree in our community he sheltered and nurtured many. Now he has fallen it is plain to see the space he filled in our lives. I can’t think of the Merri Creek market garden without thinking of the man and even though CERES has been farming there for many years I will always think of this place as Joe’s garden.