ROTORUA REVIEW: By Benn Bathgate
Sixty-six vegetable gardens, 59 Rotorua families, eight kindergartens, one week.
Community garden coordinator Te Rangikaheke Kiripatea and a group of dedicated volunteers have set themselves what Kiripatea acknowledges is a mammoth task – and it’s for one simple aim.
“It’s about engaging families in sustainable living, as well as improving their diets through backyard gardens,” he said.
The plan to spend a week installing the 66 vege gardens is part of the My Backyard Garden Project and will see Kiripatea, fellow garden coordinator Bernie Hornfeck and an army of volunteers transforming donated pallets into 1.2m square raised beds across 66 Rotorua locations.
The work will begin at the Rotorua Youth Centre where volunteers will break down the pallets.
They will also transform former Auckland wheelie bins into compost bins, then the equipment plus top soil will be formed into kits to be transferred to each location and the garden set up.
Volunteers will then help families to plant their first vegetables including kale, spinach, silverbeet, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflowers and parsley.
“We are also working with the Rotorua Local Food Network to partner-up our families with local gardeners who can offer them support and tips during the first six months of having their garden,” said Kiripatea.
He said he had been amazed by both the generosity of sponsors in donating goods, and by the amount of interest shown in the project.
He said they had to turn down some garden requests, but that the project would run again in the coming February.
“We don’t intend to stop,” he said.
The families taking part in the project will also be monitored by Healthy Families Rotorua nutritionist Jasmin Jackson, “to see what benefits there are, and what challenges”.
“The monitoring is a great tool in our kit, especially when it comes to future funding,” Kiripatea said.
He said the project also aimed to educate and inspire a ‘lost generation’ of children who had no exposure to growing their own food.
“They don’t even know how to grow a potato,” he said.
Anyone wanting to volunteer towards the project is asked to email Alan Scicluna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 027 389 3505.