New Zealand - Aotearoa 🇳🇿 Part 1 -The internship at Wairarapa Eco Farm
Υπάρχει και Ελληνική έκδοση του κειμένου,
αλλάζοντας τη γλώσσα στα Ελληνικά (κουμπί στο τέλος της σελίδας)
It’s always tough to get focused and write a story down. Especially if it has been some years already that it was realised.
It felt that I would get to it faster but it surely didn’t happen. Even with all the COVID time, even still, nothing.
I guess it brewed long enough and now it is somehow ready to come out. Be put down in paper and referenced.
I remember I was a bit stressed making this journey. Bit further out than what I was used to. But it only took two planes and here I was. In the exotic, to me, New Zealand. Aotearoa.
After a couple of hours in customs trying to convince the people there of my genuine visitor's intentions, I was unleashed in the big city Auckland.
Went to my cheap hostel and spend the first two days taking care of my self and exploring cautiously. Like a cat, I needed to get accustomed to my surroundings. I can’t say I’ve had the warmest welcome to this city but I was not going to let that put me down. I was super excited.
It was time to move towards the south, as my aim was to reach the Wairarapa area.
I’ve rented a car and drove Auckland-Rotorua. It was early November and it felt like summer there already. It's because of all the warm springs around.
There were bubbly waters and mud all over the place. I got in some free access hot and cold pools to rejuvenate the body. Really interesting area to say the least!
What stroke me first in New Zealand was the color of the green. I have not seen such hues before. It’s a deep perennial green & luscious at the same time. A combination of green gradients wherever you looked. It absolutely gives a whole new meaning to the word green. The word suddenly feels limited.
Visited a forest of redwoods that was first established back in the 1900s with the aim of using the timber for building. That filled my spirit with courage and anticipation of things to come.
A bus from lake Taupo took me to Greytown where my host was expecting me. Frank, in his old Nissan, picked me up and took me home. At the Wairarapa Eco Farm. The family, Josje, Frank, Sanne, Renske, Femke, Wietse, Jarrod and Sam welcomed me. I am not exaggerating when I say that it actually took no time for me to get comfortable and adjusted to this new environment.
I was going to stay there for at least 4 months doing an internship to learn about regenerative agricultural practices. The day to day life was work the fields in the morning, early lunch and dinner at 6-7pm. I had my own room that had all that I needed. A bed and a desk with a chair. I was so happy.
The days flew by like clouds in the sky. It was soon summer. I got to know the lovely people I was with, usually by chatting while weeding or planting. It’s a process that is repetitive, takes time and it goes by so pleasantly when you chat. Especially if you are having deep existential conversations or dialogues about relationship’s unanswered challenges. I got to learn almost everyone through this process except from our youngest members who usually eluded me. People in their teens are so exciting to watch, from a safe distance.
You have probably read this before in my stories but I love to be around families, especially big ones. Just imagine trying to squeeze in a sofa full of people. That sort of feeling. I just love that. I enjoy it too much. One day I wish to have my own big ridiculous family and try to welcome anyone who wishes to join in for a brief or longer time.
And how was the place you ask me?
Well the house is comprised of many different little buildings. There is the main room, an octagonal straw bale structure. The living space. Sofa, big wooden table and kitchen are the main attractions. Attached to this space is the office, the bathroom, a bedroom and finally the compost toilet.
Outside of it, a storage area which is converted into three bedrooms, a workshop and a small storage room.
A bit further away, Renkse and Jarrod’s place, a converted shipping container. Beautifully crafted, insulated and extra bits to make it #tinyhome spectacularity. Outside of it stands Pedro, our first cob oven.
Finally, a bit closer to the gate, is the A-frame house, the house of Femke's. Simple yet magnificent structure, a dream place, especially for a teenager's room!
In the plot, here are two rather large greenhouses that accommodate some tropical plants, all the sidlings and some early season crops. You can find different cultivation approaches to the whole farm. You have the no-till market garden approach (use of compost and intense mulching), you have the lightly cultivated beds, permaculture keyhole beds, fukuoka garden, herb garden and olive tree grove with grazing animals.
Also, it hadn’t been long that the vegetable production was moved to this place. Before I arrived, they used to grow their veggies in a rented space near Masterton. That was unleased and they brought the production home. The produce is moved through a CSA system.
I have to mention that there are so many rocks in the ground that surprised me completely that plants actually grew among them. It seems that the area must have been a river bed at some point.
For those who are not familiar with the CSA system, it stands for community supported agriculture. It’s very similar to crowdfunding where a member pays upfront or monthly to support economically the grower and in return they receive part of the production. The Wairarapa eco farm proudly fed, on weekly basis, many families during the time I was there. In the future and when some fruit trees grow, they can provide even more variety of produce. Or who knows, maybe they will collaborate with other small farms on the area, that are popping up continuously and become the Wairarapa purest production centre.
We are not only talking about organics but we are talking about ethically grown food, food that is allowed to grow to its full potential in the most natural-like way. It is generally considered an easy task to grow some food, but to grow good quality food, that is a matter of many factors. Including the condition of the ground, its microorganisms, the immediate environment, the climatic conditions, to name a few. Good quality food is just what we need to be strong, happy and healthy. It is worth the effort of production.
About the internship:
Day to day work on the farm and weekly lessons from Frank. I hold a degree in biology and was impressed of my huge gaps in understanding of the world that surrounds us.
I had no idea of the “simple” chemistry that we consist of and how everything interacts with everything else. Alive or still, it’s nonetheless intertwined. All of the processes in what we call regenerative agriculture are in balance with the environment aiming towards win win situations. It is more about keeping energy in the ground, not taking more than we leave back and retaining balances to ensure that the system has all it needs to go on.
I don’t understand yet when or how we lost that connection in the first place. Probably it was during the wars and industrial revolution when things shifted. It’s when things became global (like the war) and there was a need to find a purpose for those war products. They became fertilisers and herbicides. With what seemed short term benefits the damage has been enormous. That led where we are today. Disconnected from our food, from what nature really means and to be feeling insecure amongst other organisms.
As we can’t go back, we can look for new ways of being. More and more humans realise this, in one way or another and who knows maybe we get to grow older in what we call, a natural world.
Suggested books and authors, for the issues I've just mentioned:
Masanobu Fukuoka, 1985 - The Natural Way of Farming The Theory and Practice of Green Philosophy.
Vandana Shiva, 2016-Who Really Feeds the World The Failures of Agribusiness and the Promise of Agroecology.
Rachel Carson, 1962-Silent Spring.
END OF PART 1 -Thank you for reading. PART 2 will follow to cover animals in the farm, trips and urban sceneries!