On a recent trip to Sydney whilst driving past the Eastern Suburbs Cemetery I saw ‘Market Gardens La Perouse’ pop up on google maps. Information about the heritage significance of these gardens has been appearing in my social media for years as heritage listings and battles have been fought and fought again. I was pretty excited to unexpectedly get the opportunity to see them in person. I must say they are surprisingly easy to miss if you are not paying attention.
They were much more extensive than I imagined running along creek for quite some distance and clearly part of an old sand dune system. I’ve always felt that while the name ‘market garden’ describes what they are, a collection of many different kinds of cropped grown in a confined area for sale at market, that because of their associations with Chinese and then Italian immigrants the term has also come to mean something less substantial than a ‘farm’. All I can say is that it is clear that plenty of painstaking, labouring hours must be needed to keep these gardens going.
It looks like portions of the area have been a market garden since 1904 and subleased to Chinese gardeners since at least 1909. In 2012, the Teng and Ha family had been cultivating the gardens for between 35 and 60 years. The gardens still operate today but as Gordon Ha observes: ‘When my Dad started on the farm 40 years ago, they grew mostly Australian vegetables such as celery. Now with the demand for new vegetables, we are growing Chinese vegetables like Bok Choy, Cho Sum and Chinese broccoli’.
Such a valuable piece of Chinese Australian heritage, long may it survive.
- NSW heritage listing: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=5044696
- La Perouse Market Gardens website: https://laperousemarketgardens.wordpress.com/
- Announcement about listing and significance of three Chinese markets in La Perouse area: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/Heritage/aboutheritage/chinesemktgarden.htm
- Fiona Piper, ‘Sydney’s historic Chinese market gardens’, ABC Rural, 18 September 2015: https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2015-08-05/chinese-market-garden/6672130
- Michael Koziol, ‘Last man standing at Chinese market gardens’, Sydney Morning Herald, 7 August 2014, https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/last-man-standing-at-chinese-market-gardens-20140801-zzcod.html