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July 19, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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Kai o Te Aro—A local community gardening group

As the cost of living continues to increase faster than wages, many people are turning to growing their own fruit and vegetables as a way to save money. So it comes as no surprise that over the last couple of years there has been a rise in popularity of community gardens throughout New Zealand. Individuals in towns and suburbs around the country have joined forces to promote community building, food sustainability and horticulture education. One such group is central Wellington-based Kai o Te Aro, which currently has three community gardening plots in Aro Valley.

Kai o Te Aro started about 18 months ago with founding member Charles Barrie, and a collection of Aro Valley residents flowing on from the Transitions Town movement. It started with the Secret Garden, a private patch of land that has been provided for the group. But today there are three separate community gardening plots, with Victoria University providing Kai o Te Aro with two areas for the group to develop into fruit and veggie plots. Although no longer living in the valley, Mr Barrie is still an active driving force of the Kai o Te Aro gardening group.

Te Aro resident and Kai o Te Aro member Lynsey Ferrari says community interest in the group was still strong, with about 140 people on their mailing list, and about 12 actively involved in working bees. Ferrari considers herself the only “granny” in the group, with most of its members being relatively young—around 20 to 50—made up of mainly students flatting in the area and working professionals. Despite being one of the senior members of the group, she says she is probably learning more from them than the other way around in terms of different aspects of gardening, including soil maintenance and compost building.

She says a main aim of Kai o Te Aro is “building community and giving people confidence”, by educating each other on how to best grow things in Wellington, as well as things such as permaculture and seed saving. In their three garden sites, they have planted a variety of vegetable and herb plants as well as fruit trees. But having only been established for a couple of years, Kai o Te Aro is still in the development stage with members constantly learning .

“The whole point of it really is to start co-op gardens where people can work alongside each other, learn about growing vegetables, seed saving, building compost, worm farms and getting rid of food waste,” she says.

“It has a strong environmental message, but it also emphasises that you don’t need a huge area to grow gardens. A lot of people grow herbs in pots, and there are a lot of apartments around here that are developing roof gardens—I think that’s a great idea.”

In the early days, a major high for Kai o Te Aro was winning the Australasian section of a competition by international garden supplies company Fiskars, which awarded them with vouchers to spend on gardening products. Ms Ferrari said that prize money was “a wonderful boost” and very instrumental in getting Kai o Te Aro off the ground.

New people are always welcome to get involved with Kai o Te Aro. They hold a working bee on the third Sunday of each month, meeting at the Aro Valley Community Centre, 48 Aro Street, at 12pm. Every month, Kai o Te Aro also holds a pot luck dinner, held at a different member’s house each time, when they have their monthly meetings. People wanting to get involved in the community gardens can either come along to one of the working bees or email their interest to arogardener@gmail.com.

“We’d be delighted if people with more local gardening knowledge could come along and advise or help us,” Ferrari says.

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  1. michael says:

    Would like to help

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