Deep in the heart of Brunswick, down by the Merry Creek, lies a market garden growing a remarkable secret crop. Owned until 2003 by Joe Garita, an Italian community builder and gardener, Joe and his family joyfully shared their passion and produce for decades until, through a series of events, the lease fell to the community environment park, CERES. In memory and homage to this remarkable local character, the market garden is known today as CERES Joe’s Market Garden.

Today, Joe’s garden is growing passion of a different kind.

Weed dating participants get down and dirty

Today, Joe’s garden is growing passion of a different kind.

Over the past 18 months, the garden’s chief cultivator, Emily Connors started a regular event she calls Weed Dating. It’s an opportunity for singles to get together and, while removing the weeds from Joe’s garden, make new friends and possibly find a lover.

It started on the suggestion of a local farmer, Paulie from Day’s Walk farm, Connors tells Dream Planet. “He said, ‘Em, have you heard about this weed dating that is happening in the States?’ I said no, but that is exactly up my alley. I love it!’,” Connors explains. “It ticked a lot of boxes when it comes to what we’re doing here, which is reconnecting people to each other and the land joyfully.

“Of course, this has been happening for a very long time,” she adds. “People getting together over food and being outside and connecting in a really honest and authentic and relaxed way.”

What happens on a weed date?

After a bit of experimenting, Connors found the event works best when the format is relaxed. Once a month, on the second Saturday at 11am, singles arrive at CERES Joe’s Market Garden and invited to put on a name tag with their first name and their pronoun (she or he). “That’s to make sure people in our trans community feel safe and comfortable,” Connors says.

Participants also add what they are looking for: friend, lover, movie or gardening buddies, or whatever they decide. Then, facing each other down one of the garden’s vegetable beds, they set to weeding while a DJ spins tracks. When the music stops, every five or 10 minutes, the weeders stop. Connors says: “I call out, ‘Okay, everyone, you’re welcome to move onto the next person or you’re very welcome to move on to the next plant and solo weed’. That’s because people need that option to feel relaxed.”

After an hour and a quarter of weeding, the participants stop and gather for a light lunch, which Connors provides. Participants complete a form about who they’d like to follow up with. If their preferences match, Connors shares contact details.

Does weed dating work?

Monique has come to two Weed Dating events so far. She has found it hard to find people who are “not mainstream” through other dating options, such as online apps or speed-dating events. “Going in daggy clothes is a really nice aspect of it: getting dirty with a bunch of people. There is a certain kind of person who is into that.”

Lebanese Amaranth is a weed in many gardens but is harvested during Weed Dating events and sold by CERES Joe’s Market Garden.

Connors says occasionally there is an instant connection and people have simply exchanged numbers themselves. Or she makes matches.

Monique found a new friend and has been on a couple of dates. And she had fun in the process. The crouching down to weed can be tiring, Monique admits, but there are plenty of breaks for rest and water, and no-one has to stay for the whole time.

Her goal wasn’t to meet a lover, but to meet new people. “I think it is lovely because it makes it less awkward. You are all doing the same thing and it’s new to everyone. We are all connected by gardening, so it’s easier to ask a question, like do you have a garden at home.”

Every second Saturday is queer only. “Em is very inclusive,” Monique says. “So you are meeting people from diverse and interesting orientations. It is fascinating.”

Want to sign up for Weed Dating?

Melbourne

The events happen monthly and are publicised on Eventbrite. Every second month is queer only. Just rock up and join in. No registration required. For details, check out the CERES Joe’s Market Garden Facebook page or email [email protected]

Sydney

Pocket City Farms recently started a Weed Dating event – next one is Feb 14th at 6pm. Click here to find it on Eventbrite

* Joe’s Market Garden lies in the creek’s flood plain and was used by the indigenous Wurundjeri people for untold eons until it became a Chinese market garden in the 1800s. Therein lies a whole story. More coming on this one later this year.