Home for the harvest

More than 50 families who started their own boxed garden as part of the One Love Māngere initiative six months ago are now into their second season of planting, introducing winter crops.

From taro and herbs to cruciferous vegetables, this small Māngere community is enjoying the ongoing benefits of home-grown kai.

“Many in this neighbourhood were experienced growers, hunters and gatherers back in their Pacific Island homelands, but struggled to adapt their knowledge and crops to the New Zealand climate and lifestyle,” shares Kelly Francis of Whenua Warrior. “By introducing a simple garden box and indigenous gardening techniques, we have seen a resurgence in these food practices and are watching families (and their gardens) thrive.”

Each household started with one basic box and a selection of vegetable punnets. Over the season, workshops supported growing proficiency and self-sufficiency. Crops took off and the abundant summer harvest, paired with an increased confidence and skill among residents, has seen a number of households adding up to three more garden boxes to their collection, for the winter season.

With more than 120 takeaway and liquor outlets within a 3km radius of the One Love neighbourhood, the initiative is beginning to impact Māngere’s food eco-system.

By supporting champions to build a local environment where produce is coming from people’s backyards, it is reducing reliance on the commercial food industry. The initiative has also become a catalyst for community connectivity.

“People are swapping korero, tips, advice and, intercultural and intergenerational knowledge. They are becoming empowered as experts,” adds Kelly.

Neighbours are sharing produce and taking excess into their local churches and schools. Others are swapping crops and recipes – the lucky ones even sharing cooked meals.

One local mum, Te Oranga, has formed a collective with other neighbourhood women who are home during the day. They come together for composting workshops and to learn from each others’ shared experience.

“The One Love Garden initiative is part of a series of activities in South Auckland addressing food security,” says Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura Lead, Rachel Enosa.

“Working at this scale has given us great insight into the food knowledge of a community. The work is about building capability to connect with and grow good kai. It is upskilling families in areas of soil quality, pest control, composting and harvesting techniques so they can gain an intimate understanding and experience of the food cycle from garden, to table and, back again. And, it is addressing issues of affordability and accessibility, helping make healthy kai the first and easiest choice.”

Kelly has also noticed a greater sense of belonging, among renting families.

“When you are a renter you can feel unsettled, as every month, someone else comes into your home to inspect it and make comments about it, reminding you it isn’t yours,” she adds.

“We are noticing many families are empowered by their gardens, it is saying to them: ‘These new skills, these crops, all of the associated benefits, they all belong to you’.”

At the next change of season, the initiative will kick up another level and stretch gardening nous by facilitating workshops on the techniques of planting and harvesting in alignment with the maramataka, Māori lunar calendar.

The One Love Gardens initiative is delivered by Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura in partnership with Do Good Feel Good, My Backyard Garden and Whenua Warrior.