From seed to table, fresh food for all

Food resilience is the goal of Grow On Katikati, a community initiative aiming to ensure that by supporting people to grow their own food, no one need go hungry.

 An hour in the company of the organisers, volunteers, and participants of Grow On Katikati (GOK) at the Saturday morning seed and seedling share and you could be convinced that Katikati is one big food garden and that all the residents grow their own produce.

 They may not be there yet, but GOK has, in just over four years operation, had a massive impact on the locals and got many people involved in fulfilling the vision of ‘Fresh Food for all, from Seed to Table’.

The GOK seed was sown in 2020 during lockdown when the demand meant access to seedlings dried up, and fresh produce was sometimes hard to source. Initiators Tessa MacKenzie and Anne Billing realised that, while they lived in the centre of a prolific food-producing area, most of what was grown locally is exported. The time was ripe to get the locals growing their own food resilience. It started with an approach to Kings Seeds, a long- established local business. Kings supplied the seeds and another local business, Gammans, the seed raising mix (and both still do). Volunteers, notably Ray Nelson, propagated the seeds and GOK made them available to locals, the numbers increasing as GOK has become ever woven into the Katikati community.

Social Seeding

By isolating people, lockdown also highlighted how humans are social beings, and that to flourish, a community needs reasons to come together for a common purpose. The happy chatter and the hugs at the Saturday swap are clear evidence that Grow on Katikati is also feeding souls. 

Most Saturdays will see Jizzy Green and Jess Moir, the two GOK coordinators, in the middle of it all (and Jess’s children up a tree!) outside the Grow On Katikati shed beside the Katikati Community Centre. It is through their enthusiastic fertilising that people of all ages are involved in one initiative or another. Kids aged six to ten learn to garden through Seedlings Club, hopefully establishing a lifelong love of growing food. Children often man entrepreneur stalls at the monthly Crop Swap, where locals share their excess. GOK also has a local seed library that saves seeds grown and harvested locally. Workshops and social events span seed sowing to composting and food preparation and preserving. They host film nights and long lunches too.

Many older residents have big gardens but bad knees. Collaborative gardening matches people who want to do more gardening with those who have more space than they can manage alone.

Count the Ways …

Grow on Katikati’s mission, “Connecting and empowering locals by sharing seeds, seedlings and skills”, and the obvious results they are achieving has attracted funding and local sponsorship, appreciatively noted on the new GOK website. More revenue comes from members, who pay $60 per year (works out at just $5 per month) for free seedlings and a selection of seeds every month. However, no one is excluded, and you do not have to be a member to get the newsletter, which now goes out to more than 400 subscribers. A koha is welcome if someone can’t afford membership. GOK want to help the community create ameans to grow produce and help them meet the ever-increasing cost of feeding the family. 

In the past year GOK has distributed over 9000 seedlings and hundreds of packets of seeds into the community and experienced increased membership. Regular swapper Jan enthuses, “I love coming here”, referring to the plants she gets every week, the produce she shares, the people she has befriended and the way her children and grandchildren have also embraced this growing culture. 

Growing CommUNITY

GOK’s associations are far reaching in the Katikati community, from the local kindergarten to the MenzShed, and with other organisations in the food arena. Everything they do furthers the goal that no one should go hungry. As Jizzy Green says, “Growing their own food will translate into healthier outcomes. Food grown locally means less food miles, more nutrient density, less money spent on food and more money for other rising living expenses.” 

Simple, really. It just takes a village, a passionate few and an enthusiastically grateful many.

Seed and seedling share: Saturdays 9.3010.30 am, KK Community Centre, Beach Road
Crop Swap: First Saturday of the month

Words Liz French, Images Ales Spodyneiko (first published in Nourish Magazine)

About the Author

Vicki Ravlich-Horan

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