Ahoaho, the horticulture block at Ōtaki College, is moving to a more self-sustaining footing with a focus on market gardening.
Mike King revived the block in 2021, but moved on late last year. Since then, Rosa Yates and Jack Leason have managed the project.
“We recently received significant funding from Te Puta Ora to start creating a market garden on some of the block,” Rosa says. “The goal is to be selling kai grown at Ahoaho to the community this summer.”
The income from boxes of organically grown vegetables would help the garden become self sustainable, and allow it to run regular courses in horticulture for rangatahi at the college.
“The focus is on food sustainability, and providing good veges for local families” Jack says. “We think we can supply about 25 boxes a week, in collaboration with Crooked Vege, and include six to eight different healthy vegetables.
“They’re spray-free and grown in living soil.”
The new Crooked Vege programme has only recently been established in Ōtaki.
Te Puta Ora is a Ministry of Social Development fund that supports initiatives to increase access to healthy and affordable food in low-income communities and other communities experiencing food insecurity. It is aimed at initiatives that will be sustainable in the long term, reducing dependency on foodbanks and food hardship grants.
Meantime, Rosa and Jack are running Papa Taiao Earthcare courses, which are NCEA accredited. They offer rangatahi a chance to get hands-on experience in regenerative growing, sustainability and conservation while in school.
“It’s just one day a week for this term, but we hope to offer it for the whole year next year,” Rosa says
Papa Taiao evolved from Education for Sustainability in the New Zealand curriculum and has been running since 2012.
Meantime, students continue to come in to the gardens to help out, sometimes on their own but other times in groups. It might be they just need time out from the rigours of school work, or have other challenges in their life.
They learn about growing plants, how to look after the tools and how to use various edible plants.