The world is hurtling towards an unknown future. The older generation and our parents have witnessed and allowed the planet we live on brought to its knees. Our young people have had enough and are determined to do better. It will not be easy for them as the greedy will cling to their ill-gotten gains. In our own small way Katrina’s Kitchen Garden want to say sorry for our generation and try to make up for it.
Katrina’s Kitchen Garden guy Steve McCarthy is calling for help growing an Urban Farm in Titirangi! Students from Glen Eden Intermediate know Mr McCarthy as a funny, experienced and passionate teacher. They recognise his passion for teaching and his passion for the environment. He wants to share his knowledge outside of the School Curriculum.
He has recently announced his intention to offer a training programme through the school holiday weeks. He wants to train a group of young people in skills their grandparents or great grand parents would have thought of as essential skills.
Many skills or talents skip a generation, sometimes even two. It’s often the case that kids will shine in an area, and relatives will recall the traits of distant relative. Certainly Mr McCarthy’s nine siblings and their parents weren’t that big on gardening but his grandfather was.
Mr McCarthy’s grandfather wasn’t unusual. In fact it wasn’t that long ago that many people grew their own herbs, vegetables and fruits. Many of those fruit trees remain yet watch their fruit fall and rot on the ground. We have become dependent on big business and mass produced food. Food that we have little idea of where it was grown or under what conditions they were grown.
There were no supermarkets in New Zealand until 1957, when a Four Square opened in Devonport, Auckland. What did people do before this? They grew food in their back yards, they ate seasonally, and they made jams & pickles. That is recent history yet it might as well be ancient history. The nature of work changed, our sense of community changed and we slowly became reliant on big box retailers.
This morning I ate strawberries and raspberries from my garden. I can’t prove they tasted better, I can’t prove they had more nutrients and less chemicals. But from harvest to plate to mouth I estimate about thirty steps and under two minutes were spent. I admit that I took a moment to look up at My Granda Browne, smile and thank him for the gift he gave me.
Nau te rourou, naku te rourou, ka ora te iwi.
With your food basket and my food basket everyone will be fed.
Students of Mr McCarthy or Steve as he was known to thousands of Life Education students will know that the above Maori whakatauki (proverb) is central to his belief system. He believes it conveys the message that we all have strengths but that nobody has strengths in everything. If that is true then it implies that, from time to time we all need help. If we recognise this then giving and receiving help seems not only beneficial but also an essential component of life and the communities we live in.
You can almost feel it in the air, the world is transforming. Young people today are rejecting the rampant greed that has worshipped profits and sacrificed our planet. We have sucked the life out of every resource that has supported life on Earth for Aeons. We have wrapped our world in in a smog of pollution and only God knows what. Young people don’t want to aspire to the wealth that drove their parents generation to have little or no time for their children. They are equally aware of the worldwide phenomenon of people working ridiculous hours, sometimes in more than one job, racking up hours of minimum wage survival.
Quietly at first, the sound is growing. Whether it was Bernie Sanders in the USA or some organic collective consciousness but the beast has awoken and its roar is hammered out on keyboards that their great grandparents could use but their parents also struggled with. If those ancestors are looking down then surely they have inspired the the clarion call To Think Global and Act Local.
Here in West Auckland we have a community bursting with ideas. We are passionate about our environment and our community. There will be no one answer to the problems we face into the future. But gone are the days of hopeless introspection. Gone are the revolutionary dreamers that wanted to bring Capitalism to its knees (though to be honest Capitalism appears to be doing that all by itself). Now we have hope. We have hope that in every action we take towards making the world a better place we have taken an action that makes the world a better place.
We don’t need to be Nelson Mandela or Mother Theresa. But we can be. Or not. We can smile and say hello to a neighbour we have forgotten to ever smile at or say hello to before. We could invite a neighbour, perhaps living alone, perhaps lonely or not, for a cup of coffee. That coffee could be Fair Trade coffee, or not. There are no rules or ways to get this right or wrong. The only wrong would be in the failure to act.
Mr McCarthy, in his own small way, is acting. Pushed by a teacher friend from Oaklynn Special School Mr McCarthy is trying to get something off the ground. Literally. But not stolen from the ground or ripped from the ground. Instead with care and attention Katrina and he are replenishing the soil using biodynamic principles. Horse and cow manure, garden waste and a worm farm also give back to the soil just as we take from it.
Slowly, organically an Urban Farm is emerging in Titirangi. No tractors, no chemicals just love, lots of love, and sweat. It’s physical. It is beautiful.
In time Katrina and Steve could grow this farm on their own. But what would that achieve? Something for sure but just as the proverb suggested much much more if we work with others. During term time Katrina’s Kitchen Garden works with the students and staff of Oaklynn Special School from New Lynn. Starting this summer we want to open our hearts and our world to other students from other schools who want to support this idea and learn about growing food.
Come join Mr McCarthy growing food. Learn new/old skills in an active and fun way! Sometimes the threats that humanity faces appear overwhelming. Growing food grows resilience. Resilience is one of the most important gifts we can bestow on young people. There are many ways to grow food even in the smallest and most unlikely places. Taking action, any action helps avoid despondency. Our access to social media can produce anxiety or it can inspire.
Research has shown that gardening is great for mental health. Without wanting to scaremonger I think it would be fair to say that any progress we can make in youth mental health is progress we need.
Without wishing to be the harbinger of doom it is obvious that we are becoming more and more aware of food insecurity here and around the world. Below is some research that whilst not being rocket science is clearly something that needs to be measured and stated as fact not opinion.
Researcher Kristie Carter and her colleagues found food insecurity not only had an impact on nutrition and physical health, but also on the mental health of New Zealanders.
“What we found is that people who are food insecure report higher levels of psychological distress, compared to those who have enough food to eat,” she said.
“The results of this study add further impetus to reducing food insecurity in New Zealand by implementing policies that enhance food security for thousands of at-risk households, particularly in light of rising household and fuel costs.”
Somewhere in the recesses of my brain I remember reading an article about $8 lettuce. It may have been out of season but there remains a point. If we can grow salads, vegetables and fruits from seeds then supermarket prices mean less and less to us. If we can save seeds from year to year and collect rainwater then we save more money and more than money.
Childhood and adult obesity continues to rise in our sedentary world. Our obsession with screen time has dragged us away from nature and wellbeing. It may be a teaching joke: Teacher: Where do vegetables come from? Student: Countdown. But it’s not funny is it. Think Global, Act Local. Waiting for governments or health departments to solve our problems may be a right but can we afford to wait for them to deliver. Perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect them to do.
Katrina’s Kitchen Garden is an experiment in the making. It is nowhere near successful yet, if your measure of success is financial. It was successful the moment we decided to act. It was successful the moment our first students arrived. When our first volunteer turned up. When our first neighbour smiled and said hello and then gifted their garden to us. When we sold our first produce. By any real measurement we are successful. If and when financial sustainability arrives, our idea could be replicated in hundreds of communities throughout New Zealand and further. Think Global, Act Local.
If you want to support us or any other organisation that is trying to make the world a better place then we encourage you to act. You might start something new. Or donate your time, expertise or money to us or anyone else you like. You might encourage your children to attend our School Holiday Programme. If it is too expensive…talk to us.
Mon 18th Dec ‘17 to Fri 2nd Feb ‘18
$65 per day, or $250 per five day week.
For more details and to book contact Steve McCarthy by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on cellphone at 027-273-8091.