Special Hyundai Country Calendar Episode 9
Country Calendar Special - Episode 9, screening Friday 7 December at 8.30pm on TV ONE:
Episode nine in a special series of 10 one-hour programmes in which we revisit some of our favourite recent stories.
In this episode we head to the fields to meet three North Island crop growers.
Seeds of Change
If Raglan customers want gourmet salad from Kaiwhenua Gardens they have to be in fast.
The bags of colourful lettuce, salad greens and edible flowers are so popular that some people even drive over from Hamilton to get one.
But salad ingredients are just one of a variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs that Lynne and Kaiwaka Riki grow at Kaiwhenua Gardens, just north of Raglan at Whale Bay.
The couple have five hectares of plantings. Their gardens, on land which belongs to Kaiwaka's family and is operated under a charitable trust, are nestled in a sheltered, fertile hollow on the slopes of Karioi, a mountain of sacred significance to Maori.
Lynne and Kaiwaka Riki follow a combination of Maori traditions and other proven methods. They are guided by Maori protocols for respecting the well-being of the land, don't use chemicals, and plant by the moon.
All the fertilisers applied are natural. This includes lots of their own compost, chicken and pig manure and seaweed. Companion planting, fixing nitrogen with legumes, rotating crops and leaving plots fallow are all strategies they follow.
The gardens are certified by the Maori organics organisation, Te Waka Kaiora. In keeping with the agency's guidelines, Kaiwaka says a karakia morning and night to thank the land, his ancestors, and the energies of nature for protecting the gardens. He honours the spiritual connection between all things, saying this helps to purify the environment and make plants flourish.
Kaiwaka and Lynne were not always upstanding citizens - they once grew marijuana rather than vegetables. But they switched to legal plants when they wanted to be better role models for their grandchildren.
The couple has now been supplying organic produce to cafes and restaurants in Raglan for 12 years.
Kaiwaka and Lynne say their gardens are a healing place which has helped them grow as people and drop old, negative habits. They also offer work to others who need to sort out their lives, and are known in the community for cooperating with police and other agencies to help unemployed youth.
A main aim of the Kaiwhenua Trust is to share knowledge of organic gardening with the local community and to encourage families to grow their own kai.
In the meantime, they can't keep up with demand from enthusiastic customers who say the food is fresh, tastes good, and keeps for a long time.
For more about Kaiwhenua Trust,
When Country Calendar veteran Frank Torley heard that Rex Hendry's lifestyle block was just one hectare, he doubted there would be enough material to make a gripping episode.
"I couldn't have been more wrong," says Frank.
Although the property, near Egmont Village in Taranaki, may be among the smallest Country Calendar has ever visited, there's plenty of action.
When Rex found his piece of land, he'd been doing a desk job but he was looking for a change, so he began thinking about what to grow that would provide him with a living.
Garlic wasn't an obvious choice - Rex reckons he might be the only commercial garlic grower in Taranaki - but he was pretty sure there would be a market for good quality garlic grown using organic principles.
However he had one problem - the block of land he'd bought was exposed and needed shelter if the plants were to thrive.
Rex chose lavender, which he planted in rows to provide a wind-break. There's an extra benefit - he gets it processed into lavender oil at a nearby distillery, which provides him with an additional income.
He sells the lavender and garlic, along with other products such as lavender water, at the weekly farmers market in New Plymouth.
It might sound an idyllic lifestyle, but there are plenty of challenges making a living off a small piece of land.
Rex's days are full of hard, physical slog - the only mechanical aids he has are a rotary hoe and a ride-on mower.
Rex crammed a lot into his life before taking on the lifestyle block. He's walked the length of New Zealand, sailed the Sub-Antarctic Ocean, worked for five years at Scott Base and climbed mountains around the world.
He hasn't completely given up adventuring - he still supplements his farm income by working as a guide and conservation mentor for the tourism industry.
Rex shares his land with partner Sally Johnson, an artist whose studio is a caravan attached to the couple's garage.
Sally makes crafted dolls and scarves using a Japanese method known as Nuno felting and sells them at a café and gallery just south of New Plymouth.
Wee Red Barn
Alan and Dot Bissett left busy management jobs in the United Kingdom for what they thought would be a quieter life in New Zealand - but they've ended up working even harder here.
The couple run their own berryfruit farm near Masterton. For most of the year, the work never lets up - but despite the hectic schedule, they love being their own bosses.
Dot left Wairarapa on her OE and met her husband-to-be in Scotland, where he managed a large horticulture unit. They worked together for several years, then decided they needed a change, so headed for New Zealand.
They bought a small vineyard that had been left to run down, pulled out most of the grapes and started their dream project - to make a living from just three hectares.
And in less than four years, they achieved their goal.
They've planted the land out in a wide range of berryfruit - mostly strawberries and raspberries - but they've also kept some of the original grapes and olives, plus found room for free-range hens, kune kune pigs and even highland cattle.
Most berryfruit farms their size would scarcely provide a living for two, but the Bissetts make the economics work by cutting out the middleman.
They sell most of their produce themselves from the Wee Red Barn, a converted stables on the property.
The farm's location, on State Highway Two just north of Masterton, means there's plenty of traffic passing the shop.
The land's a money-maker for more than just the Bissetts - it's also contributing to the local economy. In the high season there's work for anything up to a dozen pickers.
Dot and Alan also stretch the length of the season for each crop by planting at different times, and controlling the amount of feed their plants get through an automated irrigation system.
Alan says he's working at least as hard as he ever did in his management job in Scotland, but he finds it more satisfying being the owner of his own patch, and in control of everything he does.
Even though the farm is now well-established, the workload never seems to get less - but he has no regrets about his move from Scotland.
For more information, www.weeredbarn.co.nz