Kensington food garden celebrates fifth birthday with mushroom festival

21 September 2023

Head to Kensington Stockyard Food Garden on the corner of Bluestone and Serong streets to connect with passionate volunteers who grow fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers to help boost biodiversity and local access to fresh food.

Located on the historic site of cattle sale-yards that opened in 1861, the cobblestoned community meeting place for garden-lovers celebrates five years in October.

As part of its birthday celebration, Kensington Stockyard Food Garden will host Mushfest, with support from the City of Melbourne’s Connected Neighbourhoods Small Grants.

Mushrooms have received a lot of attention in the media lately, and this two-day festival aims to educate people about how to safely celebrate your favourite fungi, and the important role they play in our ecosystem.


Death cap mushrooms and yellow staining mushrooms are sometimes found in Melbourne parks. These are extremely toxic to humans and pets if eaten. Please keep your distance and do not pick or eat mushrooms in the wild.

If you suspect someone has eaten a poisonous mushroom, please call the Victorian Poisons Information Centre immediately on 13 11 26. If you suspect your pet has eaten one, please call the Animal Poisons Centre immediately on 1300 869 738.

Emma amid Kensington’s old cattle sale-yards

Mushfest is the brainchild of mushroom enthusiast, school-teacher and Kensington local, Emma Wasson. Emma’s mushroom knowledge has seen her host mushroom growing and education workshops for City of Melbourne and nearby Maribyrnong City Council residents.

Among the gardeners at the Kensington Stockyard Food Garden, she’s called the “mushroom mamma” and “fungi fanatic”.

“Before I began growing mushrooms, I’d never considered my role as being part of a bigger aggregate impact. Now I see that what I’m doing is a drop in the water but also connected to a lot of other ways of producing and helping people have access to fresh home-grown food,” Emma said.

“My aim during Mushfest is to inspire people to get involved in small acts of self-sufficiency and sustainability. I grew up on a farm and believe it’s good to facilitate an early connection with nature.”

Mushrooms have been described by many experts as being vital to our ecosystem because they provide life-sustaining mineral nutrients to plants while decomposing organic matter. They also release important molecules into the atmosphere and soil.

Emma, who lives in an apartment like around 30 per cent of Kensington residents, said inner-city living can make it hard to truly connect with nature. So being close to Kensington Stockyard Food Garden has helped her feel a sense of community with other nature lovers. She believes apartment living doesn’t have to hold you back from enjoying gardening.

“I grow my own mushrooms on my apartment balcony. I’ve got three buckets going at the moment, all at different levels of their life cycle. I also have some king stropharia mushrooms growing in my plot at the stockyard garden and have inoculated some logs with shitake spawn,” she said.

The local garden has not only given Emma a place to grow mushrooms, but a sense of community.

“Sixteen months ago I gave birth to my daughter. I got through the first three months, then realised I needed to find a way to be fulfilled in other ways. I craved community engagement and being part of something bigger, so I continued my work with the garden during maternity leave,” Emma said.

“As an adult I’ve chosen to live in nexus areas as I like to be close to conveniences. The stockyard community garden gives me a patch of country living in an urban environment. It’s such an important part of living here as I’ve met a lot of people.

“I’ve only lived in Kensington for three years and in that short space of time I’ve been able to foster a real community. I now wonder how my role in the community garden may evolve next.”

Read more of Emma’s story on the Kensington Neighbourhood Portal.

How to get involved

Mushfest is a free, ticketed event for people who want to expand their knowledge of mushrooms.

Starting on Saturday 14 October at Kensington Stockyard Food Garden, you’ll hear a series of free talks on the topic of fungi. You can also book a cooking workshop, learn to brew kombucha, and learn how to grow king straphoria mushrooms.

On Sunday 15 October the festival will continue at Flemington and Kensington Bowling Club. Hear from an expert panel discussing mushroom medicine for human health, including in palliative care, as well as planetary wellbeing.

Browse the program and book a ticket to Mushfest.

Kensington Stockyard Food Garden aims to be a welcoming and safe place for people to connect and to garden, with shared managed plots. Accessible to all those living in Kensington, it aims to grow a community – not just food.

To contact the team and get involved, visit the Kensington Stockyard Food Garden website.

City of Melbourne community funding and grants

The Connected Neighbourhoods Small Grants program is one of many offered by the City of Melbourne. Over the past year we have provided two million dollars in community grants to support projects across our city that help create connection, inclusion and foster participation.

In Kensington this has included funding intergenerational art program From the HeART, gardening programs to support older people living in public housing, activities to help establish the new Kensington Reconciliation Action Group, the creation of a space for young people to use, and much more.

Find out how to apply for a community grant.

About our neighbourhood model

We’re working to better understand and respond to community needs in a highly localised way through a new neighbourhood model.

Led by passionate neighbourhood partners, the model aims to “connect the dots” between the City of Melbourne, residents and businesses, to empower local people, build community capacity and guide city projects through our neighbourhood portals.

To find out more and have your say on what matters, explore the Kensington Neighbourhood Portal, and get to know the priorities for all City of Melbourne neighbourhoods.

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