The Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand, based in Takanini, are embarking on a new project to grow fresh produce on excess temple land. As well as increasing the availability of free fruit and vegetables in their community, they will also be teaching food production and promoting fresh food values, to transform the local food environment.
The Temple is the largest in Auckland with up to 3000 people visiting its facilities each week.
Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura were visiting the Temple earlier this year on a food rescue initiative and were struck by the incredible opportunities the space offered in terms of promoting a wide range of health and wellbeing activities.
The 11 acre area is already home to a fantastic walking track and a well loved sports ground but, the idea of using some of the extra space to establish a garden was just too tempting to pass up. Luckily the President of the Society, Daljit Singh, was equally enthusastic about the idea and planting of an array of winter crops begins in the next two weeks.
While many Temple members come from traditional farming communities in India, there has been a need to access some localised knowledge about how to garden to suit local climate and soil conditions. Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura acted as a conduit between the Temple and Mangere’s Old School Reserve Teaching Gardens who will mentor Temple staff and families as they adapt their traditional skills to the New Zealand climate. The Teaching Gardens also use a lunar system similar to traditional South Asian gardening techniques, which is a wonderful use of shared cultural knowledge.
Establishing crops at the Temple not only provides a healthy food source to families but, also brings a whole community together to learn, grow and harvest. Families will gain knowledge about, and access to, a range of different fruit and vegetables. It is also expected there will be ample seeds for families to transfer into home gardens for sustainable, accessible, healthy food options.
The project is also an opportunity for the Temple to take its commitment to sustainabilty to another level. It already uses solar power and has its own water resource following the recent installation of a bore. Due to its size, it also has the capacity to house and feed thousands of people if needed, for example, in a civil emergency. Having its own food supply is a natural progression to this. Furthermore, the community plan is to make their new gardens as environmentally friendly and waste free as possible with a composting and redistribution plan in place, including storing excess produce in a community fridge for anyone in need.
Helping to shape the food environment at The Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand is part of a wider approach to health and wellbeing in South Asian communities being driven by Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura. It marks the beginning of a series of initiatives, including food rescue, sharing cultural knowledge and community gardening, to demonstrate a more holistic approach to health.
If you want to create healthy change at your temple setting contact Raju Ramakrishna: [email protected]
Caption: Raju Ramakrishna (Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura) with Gurnoor Kaur and Rajinder Singh Sekhon at The Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand.