With Earth Day just around the corner, it's a good time to reflect on our connection to Papatuānuku and the ways in which we can make a positive impact on the environment. One local community kai initiative, Rakau Tautoko, is doing just that by providing resources and support for whānau to grow their own food. Through its partnership with Whenua Warrior, a long-time friend of Konei, this initiative is helping whānau regardless of limited space to experience the joys and benefits of gardening. In this article, I'll share my personal experience with receiving a garden bed from Rakau Tautoko and Whenua Warrior, and the challenges and rewards that have come with growing my own vegetables.
A few months ago, my partner Kim surprised me with some exciting news: we were going to receive a garden from Rakau Tautoko, a local community kai initiative in Glen Innes. I was skeptical at first, wondering how we could possibly grow anything in the tiny plot of ground available to us in our small townhouse rental. But I was also curious and excited to see what we could achieve.
Growing up, my whānau always had a garden in the backyard, even when we lived in state housing. I have fond memories of spending afternoons with my nana, fixing the garden and harvesting beans and silverbeet. So when the day finally came and Kelly and her team from Whenua Warrior installed our 3mx1m raised garden bed, I was cool to see the full circle of Whenua Warrior planning at GridMNK to doing the mahi in my backyard.
Over the past two months, we've enjoyed watching our vegetables grow, but we've also faced some challenges. Caterpillars have been munching on our plants, and our first attempts at using a net were quickly foiled when the vegetables outgrew it. We tried different methods, including lifting the net higher with a makeshift frame and spraying the plants with vinegar. The vinegar burnt the plants which resulted in us having to trim the plants down and wait for regrowth.
Reflecting on the process, I feel grateful for the opportunity to receive a garden bed, digging tools, bokashi bins, and produce bags from Whenua Warrior and Rakau Tautoko. As a renter, it can be a struggle to find the space and resources to grow your own food, and I recognise that not everyone has the same opportunities. But I also believe that everyone should have the chance to experience the joys and benefits of gardening, from the satisfaction of harvesting your own vegetables to the simple pleasure of spending time with papatūānuku.
Kim really tried to convince me to agree to us take on the chickens that they were giving out, despite how expensive eggs are and how cool that would be I don't think our landlord, neighbours or deck would appreciate it as much.