Arrowtown: Sustainable Kiwi Paradise
I have a husband with green fingers. It must be his background with a mother who always had a veggie garden. Growing up in rural New Zealand means you will eat what you put in the soil. Although a daily portion of your mum-grown silverbeet is not necessarily a pleasure as a kid, for someone like me, coming from a big city and having never experienced growing my own produce, seeing those children pottering around in their bare feet in their mother’s garden, I feel like I missed out a little.
We live in Arrowtown, a 2,400 people former gold mining town, nestled along the Southern Alps on the South Island of New Zealand. Flying in from the Tasman Sea over snow-capped mountains, bright blue lakes and landing in Queenstown Airport is one of the most spectacular landings on the planet. Close to Queenstown, Arrowtown’s 155-year old village has successfully kept its heritage alive with an eclectic mix of locals, immigrants and tourists.
Not long after we arrived my husband told me he wanted to have a no-dig veggie garden. That means building the garden on top of a piece of grass, lining the space with sleepers, layering it with cardboard, pea straw, horse manure and loads of soil, until it all mixes together. It’s an ideal breeding ground for worms and bacteria, plus it makes your veggies grow like crazy. Then the planting started, which according to my husband, was all to be seen. Because, depending on the sun, the quality of the soil, the seedlings and the local fauna, not everything would work out. For potatoes, our garden appeared not to be suitable but for strawberries, it is heaven. Over the last Summer I had daily arguments with several native black birds about whom should have the juicy berries first.
Apart from the winter months we are now almost fully self-sufficient. That includes; rocket, radishes, lettuce, pak choi, spinach, garlic, purple carrots, peas, courgettes, aubergines, tomatoes, Japanese turnips, broad beans, sprouting broccoli and rhubarb. Fruit-wise we grow massive amounts of strawberries, plus, coming up this year, we will have figs, cherries, boysenberries and loganberries. The herb garden has coriander, parsley, (wild) thyme, mint, basil mint, marjoram, oregano and sage. What we cannot grow ourselves we get from family members, neighbours or friends. Conveniently my husband is an estate manager at a near-by farm giving us free access to eggs from their outrageously free roaming hens.
Growing your own produce is nothing too special here; almost everyone does it, whether you have a small patch or a big garden. Whatever is left after Summer is preserved for the Winter months as pickles, fermented in jars or made into jam. With that in mind I did miss one thing in this town when we arrived; a Farmers Market. All the ingredients were here but no-one had seemed to make it happen. So, with my corporate marketing-hat on I wrote a proposal, presented it to the local business association, discussed it with the Council, formed a small team of volunteers and voila, after 14 months the first Arrowtown Farmers Market is now a reality.
It is a produce-only market offering locals the opportunity to sell grown, cooked or processed food-products, plants and flowers. The market is entirely run by volunteers and vendor fees will go back into the community, after we have paid our costs for insurance and marketing, in the form of a seasonal gift to a charity. A very nice add-on is the involvement of the Arrowtown primary school who have set up an entrepreneurial programme in which children aged 11 - 12 learn how to run a market stall, supported by their parents. Proceeds from what they sell go back into the school camps and the children will also sell donated overproduce from locals which makes our sustainable, circular community perfectly round.