“I came here in 2020, post first lockdown and got a plot here with Mary Croft. We turned the grass over and planted a few beds of carrots and cauliflower in the middle of winter.
We were both quite concerned about where we are we gonna get our food post the COVID crisis. I was showing Mary around all the community gardens and this one had space. So, we became plot-holders for about six months and in that period, I was offered a job.
I think post-COVID isolation was being able to be somewhere in an open space with other people. And it wasn’t contained, there was safety in the openness. And it’s local. I’d been in and out of Smith Street while I did my degree, just having a look. And it is a big old space; it needed a lot of work. So, I was like, yeah, this is something to sink my teeth into.
The aim of the game is to provide food for the community. We look after the ground, and the ground looks after the food, and the food looks after the people, so it’s a slightly different approach to just looking after the people.
So many community gardens are developed as community initiatives, as bumping spaces for community connection! Nothing wrong with that. But I do like a big system. I do want to be able to empower people to feed themselves. Famines are real and they happen in all sorts of countries in all sorts of demographics.
We are in a crisis and it’s not just here, It’s globally. 15% of Christchurch’s population is food insecure. If we want to reduce our fresh food bill, for people’s households, then it’s growing fresh food locally. It’s not wackadoo anymore. When I talked about planting more fruit trees 20 years ago, it was wackadoo! People were like, no! There’ll be fruit dropping off onto footpaths! There’ll be wasps! Now with over 12,000 fruit trees mapped in Otautahi public spaces we need a plan to look after these assets – and plant more.
People think that farming is exhausting, but have you ever seen me running around here knackered? I’m always just wandering around, laughing and having a lovely time. I do like an open sky. Look, at the moment, I’m a little stressed because I’ve got like 21 beds I need to sow but it’s sunny. It’s not raining, so it will get done.
Some people do just come down for their mental health, and weed quietly by themselves, then go back to their office and do this, that and the other, and all’s right with the world. The garden can recharge you, that and giving to the community.
You know, there’s no one’s going to come save us except ourselves. So let’s go do that. Waiting around for everyone else to come up with solutions might be a bit of a long wait.”