I was raised in my early childhood in rural Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, where my family lived a self-provisioning lifestyle complete with home gardens, fruit trees, hunting, and fishing. This continued when my family moved to the coastal community of Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula where my father engaged in commercial long-line fishing until he died when I was 13.
I left school at the age of 17, had a few casual jobs, then moved to Auckland City to become a health & fitness instructor. (Although at the time, my motivations may have been garnering the attention of girls rather than strictly health.) My 10-year career in the health & fitness industry included participation in some amateur body building competitions. Along the way, I realized that the basic nutritional knowledge I gained through these activities (plus looking like a superhero) did not add up to optimal health. It was at this time that I decided to plant my first vegetable garden.
With a passion for learning (and socializing), I enrolled in Auckland University where I received a degree in history, followed by a degree in ecology. Upon completing this second degree, I acquired a job running an inner-city community organic garden, which operated a works-skills programme for people undergoing mental health and/or substance rehabilitation. With the birth of my two children, I felt it was important to raise children in a healthy environment with clean air to breath, pure water to drink, and nutritious food to eat. Coupled with an increasing awareness of the various environmental, social, and economic issues facing humanity, my wife and I made the decision to leave the city. We purchased our own homestead and spent seven years growing organic vegetables for regional farmer’s markets, using low-input, low-tech organic growing methods to produce a livelihood for ourselves. From this experience, research, and contemplation, I recognised that soil biology and seed genetics were essential to producing high vitality, nutrient-rich food for optimal personal health. I have also realized there are wider social & economic issues at play that need to be addressed as well for us to efficiently produce high vitality, nutrient rich food and I am now looking to address some of these issues through helping to create a “Village of Homesteads” and work within a larger “mixed farm” framework.
I am now looking to contribute to a community of motivated people who want to have a positive impact on the world. Until I can make this dream a reality, I will be a travelling Kiwi Gardener, moving around and helping others in the Northland region improve their gardens. I will continue to learn and strengthen my skills as to be a better support to others, both locally and to our online community!
In my family, gardening has always been a big part of life. My parents tell me that by the time I was two, I was already helping in the family garden. Although, looking at the photos, my impression is that I was more just playing in and eating the dirt. By the time my family moved to Northland in 2010, I was a bit more helpful in the family garden. But I soon decided that I wanted a garden of my own, so I could grow the foods I liked to eat and grow them in more interesting ways. I really didn’t like the way my parents planted everything in straight lines.
When my family created a new garden in 2012 (I was seven then), I claimed one of the garden beds as my own, and I got to be my own boss, growing the food I wanted to grow in the ways I wanted to grow it. With this experience, I created a bigger garden the next year with the help of my friends.
Even though having my own, bigger garden was great, I was tired of having limits on which, and how many, veggies I could grow. When my family moved to a farm a few years ago, I saw the opportunity to have an even bigger garden! I found an old abandoned garden area that I could make all my own. Since I was now a little bit older and had some more experience, I knew I could make this garden how I wanted it to be. I enjoy growing climbing plants, like tomatoes and cucumbers, because they grow in such interesting ways. It is fun making structures for them to climb on and then watch them grow and help them along when they need it.
So, over the last two years, I have created the “Jungle Garden,” again with help from others. As my family are part of a local gardening internship programme for young people traveling to New Zealand, I arranged for some of the interns to help in my garden as well. Today, my garden feeds family and friends with the vegetables and some fruits that grow well in our summer months, and I hope they all like them as much as I do!
Growing only food I like to eat is great, and I’ve come to realise that the food I grow actually tastes a lot better than food we buy from the supermarket, and my mum keeps telling me it’s a lot better for me.
I grew up in a rural community near Auckland, New Zealand, before the city became the sprawling metropolis that it is today. I learned the basics of growing by spending many hours helping my grandfather, who had operated market gardens since the 1930s, maintain a small flower market garden he had established in his “retirement”. I attended Auckland University where I studied Economics, but I began to question many of the principles presented to me in my studies. I began dedicating my time to a wide range of activities, including teaching gardening to primary school students, maintaining homestead gardens, managing music groups, a “New Age” record label, and helping to establish the Permaculture Institute of New Zealand. I was fortunate to do some traveling in the 1980s and 90s, spending time in the US, Australia, Ireland and England. Returning to Northland in 1992, I worked alongside Dennis Scott, an innovative designer, landscape architect, and resource management consultant, who works with the principles of ecology-centered design.
In 2000 I turned my focus to the conservation of traditional/heirloom food plants in New Zealand. I spent the last 16 years supporting local and national seed preservation initiatives by practical "growing out" hundreds of seed lines, managing research projects, running internship programmes, and taking on advisory and advocacy roles for this issue with independent & government organizations.
In 2006, I began working for OANZ (Organics Aotearoa, New Zealand) first as part of the design team and later as the national coordinator of a National Organic Advisory Programme that was developed with Government funding. I then left the government environment and, along with teaching privately, I participated in a gardening segment for the Radio New Zealand program “This Way Up” with Simon Morton. After 7 years, the series called “The Veggie iPlot” is still available in the programmes’ collections section.
In 2010 I returned to Northland to create a long-term home for myself, my wife, and five sons. With six years of research and experimentation now completed, investigating from an ecology perspective the essential elements needed (and how to practically work with them!) to guarantee the food we grow is actually nutrient-rich, I am ready to share my results!