Early February 2017

AshleysGarden1FDonnelly's Crossing, Northland NZ, the early stages of a drought and the gardens are seemingly overflowing with organically grown vegetables - tomatoes, salad greens, cucumbers, sweetcorn, kale, courgettes, Maori potatoes, spinach and more. Inwardly I give thanks for the plentiful water supplied by the natural spring and the rocky stream that runs around the acre of gardens. I reflect with a sense of success that I have managed to grow enough organic vegetables in the volcanic silt/loam soil to provide an abundance of fresh, delicious, nutrient-rich food for my family and myself and to earn a modest, but sufficient, income selling vegetables at Northland's farmers’ markets.

But it has not been easy. Now, more than ever, I marvel at the depth of skills, knowledge and commitment required to grow food in ways that restore, rather than deplete, the natural environment.

 

So why did I choose to work so hard and relentlessly at such a challenging vocation for a humble financial return? For independence, creativity, and a bright future. As an organic grower, I am my own boss and have better job security, as the demand for good quality organic food is increasing. For me, growing is as much an art as a science, and can be designed for what one pair of hands and feet can achieve (with the help of appropriate tools & technology), or scaled and diversified to involve and feed a community of people.

I’m inspired by the many social benefits of regionalising food growing to feed local communities. I believe we need transparency, accountability and responsibility in our food system. The 'hand to hand, eye to eye' transactions that take place at farmers’ markets and through community supported agriculture (CSA), for example, build trust, confidence and real relationships between local growers and their customers.

AshleysGarden2FAnd then there are the environmental benefits of organic food growing, like helping to keep the food chain, soils & waterways healthy and chemical free, while helping to regenerate the ecology.

So, with all these motivational thoughts in my head, I finish my coffee and return to the gardens. Despite the many challenges of the past seven years (five droughts, floods, storms, rabbits and birds, wandering herds of horses, stress, burnout and marital separation), I realize I'm a 'lifer’ – that is, I'm in it for the long term and foresee a bright future with locally and communally grown nutrient-rich food supporting regenerative, contemporary, village-like communities.

 

There are many lessons to be learned from my experiences and helpful knowledge and skills I can share with you, BUT you need to use a critical eye when assessing what is useful to you and only take and apply what is relevant and practical for your unique situation.

To learn more about how we believe we can best support you to successfully grow your own nutrient-rich food, please go to our Facilitating Learning section.