Community Garden Parties happening across Kāpiti are about more than simply gardening, says Council’s Green Gardener Hannah Zwartz.
“Food is something we all have in common – everyone needs to eat. What happens to our food security when not only the fridge and pantry are bare, but also the supermarket shelves? “
Recent events in Takaka brought home how quickly supermarket shelves can empty when roading or transport are disrupted, she says. “A strong local food network is vital. You can’t get much more local than food you grow yourself, and the best place to start is your local community garden.”
The next Garden Party in the series of eight has a local food focus; it’s on Saturday March 10 at the Dreamcatcher Co-op at Windsor Park orchard, Te Horo. Workshops include foraging for wild food and medicinal herbs, sharpening your own tools by hand, and building a raised bed to experiment with growing lentils. All combined, of course, with a BYO picnic and food swap/share of homegrown produce, preserves and baking.
The co-op is emerging as something of a local food hub, with 150 members sourcing both dry goods and fresh produce. “Not all of it is local, but we’re increasing that amount,” says orchardist and co-op member Jeremiah Streaker. The orchard already produces plums, avocadoes and berries, but he would like to push the boundaries of what is grown locally.
What exactly is ‘local food’? Definitions vary, from food produced within 150km (that area would include Wanganui, Masterton and Marlborough) to 600km (that would take in Hawke’s Bay and Taranaki). But being a locavore - a person who eats local food whenever possible - could be one of the best things you can do for the planet, says Council’s Sustainable Communities co-ordinator Vanessa Crowe; food miles are a major contributor to climate change. “We’ve calculated the environmental footprints for over 150 Kapiti households over the years, through the Greener Neighbourhood scheme, and we found that one of the largest impacts comes from food.” (For more on environmental footprinting- measuring a household’s environmental impact through things like transport, energy use and food – see www.ecofootprint.nz.).
Community gardens can grow vital emergency food supplies, she says, but they also build resilience by upskilling gardeners, demonstrating what grows well locally and strengthening neighbourhood bonds. “The Community Garden Party series shows the diversity of the Kāpiti community, with each event reflecting its own unique garden and community – from a cabaret stage to sack races, watermelon Jenga, electric car test-drives, pizza ovens and more.”
Jeremiah and young co-op member Luther outside the co-op's building at Windsor Park, Te Horo.