UON alumnus and Novocastrian Adrian Garner has recently launched Seedy People – a monthly seed club that sends subscribers a selection of vegetable seeds appropriate to plant each month, keeping a wide variety of vegetables growing all year round.
This week, we talk to Adrian about how the idea for Seedy People grew, as he encourages us to join him in getting out from behind the computer and heading into the garden to create sustainable food with low impact on the environment.
Tell us about your background.
I was born in Sydney – my father is a navy officer, so I grew up in Sydney, Canberra and Port Stephens. After I graduated I worked for a year in government positions in both Washington D.C. and Wellington, New Zealand doing I.T. support and interface design. Two years ago I moved back to Newcastle, and have called Tighes Hill home ever since.
You studied Design at UON and have recently launched a seed club, Seedy People. Did one influence the other, or are they equal but separate passions?
It’s funny. I’ve told people that I send out envelopes with assortments of vegetable seeds every month, so that people are reminded to plant this month, the things they want to eat in two months’ time. Twice the response has been “Oh, like an app?”. My reaction was to get frustrated and say “No, It has nothing to do with smart phones or computers! I mean real seeds.”
Now I am starting to see that people were just seeing the influence you are asking about. When you are designing websites or apps and you want to simplify lots of information, you only show what is relevant to current time and place.
What do you hope will be achieved by what you are doing and what did you achieve or realise personally?
In the past I have had periods of success with gardening but I always tend to get slack when the garden is producing and forget to plant for future months. I wanted to address that issue for myself. Since I was going to the effort of sorting out seeds for myself, it actually made sense to make up a few more packets for friends and family. Similarly, if anyone else is thinking of doing something similar for another area or climate, they can benefit from my notes on-line. I’m applying the open-source software ethos. [To visit the Seedy People blog, click here.]
If you grow food, it doesn’t need to be driven to the shop, you don’t need to drive to the shop to get it and when you’re gardening, you’re not driving off to get entertained in some other way. I’d like to facilitate this however I can.
Do you draw on any people or resources for inspiration?
I had some interesting discussions with Mario Minichiello which made me realise that I had formed some unnecessary conceptions of what designers were and were not allowed to do. He put me onto a book called Green Design by Marcus Fairs which pulls together all these great examples of industrial design where resource consumption and product life cycle have been taken into consideration.
What’s been the most unexpected aspect of your work so far?
The support so far, has been unexpected. I had been told that if you’re working on your own business and you’re ready to make it your identity, that people will just come out of the woodwork and get behind you. I didn’t think it would actually happen though, so I’ve been pleasantly surprised everytime someone spreads the word or gives a really well considered bit of feedback.
What’s been your proudest achievement to date?
My friend Chris Wnuk and I made a video game that ran on eight dumpstered old eMacs, stacked in a grid to form the one playing platform. Heaps of people could play it together, using their own smartphones as a controller. The game depended on a lot of team work and was cruelly hard. We exhibited it at an art show and people played it for five hours straight. At one point there were about twenty people playing at once. Being able to sit there and play it with people, and see them enjoy it, was a massive honour.
What would be your dream project?
I’d like to be involved with a mesh network project – a communications network set up by civilians, getting involved with all the technical, educational and ethical issues that would go with it.
What does the future hold?
Hopefully a shift from working on computers most of the time, to mostly hands on work gardening and distributing seeds and doing the design and communications for my own business (for once).
What’s your favourite Newcastle neighbourhood and why?
Tighes Hill! Wickham. Carrington. I share the opinion that every square millimetre of suburbia should be used to grow native and food producing plants. There are some inspirational examples of this around these areas.
Can you name a local hero?
Dan the Bike man at Newcastle Bike Ecology Center. He fixes old bikes for people to come and buy or shows them how to fix their own for free. I can’t think of a more effective and well thought-out use of someone’s time.
What do you look forward to doing most in Newcastle in summer?
Summer is for going to the beach, gardening and bicycle touring.
Mulled wine, board games and backyard fires.
Where and what was the last greatest meal you had in Newcastle?
I had a memorable soft shell crab at the Albion Hotel in Wickham. I also like the smell of all the ethnic foods at the Newcastle Night Markets in the Hunter Street Mall – go and smell it, if you haven’t already!
What is your favourite getaway destination?
I like driving north to visit my sister in Brisbane and finding places to stay along the way with sunrise swims.
Your #1 Newcastle insiders tip?
Take a walk over the train lines at the end of Elizabeth Street in Carrington on a nice evening for the quintessential view of Newcastle.
Do you know someone in our region making a difference? Let us know! firstname.lastname@example.org