Monthly Archives: January 2016

Linen Flax Update

Our crop this year is near Whangarei in rich volcanic soil. This is the third year we have trialled plantings of Linen Flax here in Northland.  Sylvia preparing the soil by hand to make sure it was as fine and weed free as possible

As usual we prepared the soil by hand – removing weeds, roots and stones. This was done around Labour Weekend. Planting was done the following weekend, using some imported seed, some seed left from the first year, and some from last year. This was very interesting to us to compare, as we were concerned with the viability of the seed from the first year given it was fairly immature when we harvested. Plus we wanted to see whether the germination rates would different.IMG_1136

November and December were fairly dry, so we watered a couple of times a week. January has provided us with some nice showers so far to finish off our crop.

While the fresh seeds did germinate quicker, the seeds from prior years were only a little behind and in the end the yield has been very similar – which shows the viability of keeping seeds for replanting.

IMG_1178We also grew the plants in the open this year as an experiment. Matt loaned us his scare-hawk to keep the birds off for the first few weeks. That proved very effective as one of our main concerns was with birds wrecking havoc in the beds.

We didn’t count on an enterprising rabbit making a home in the middle of one bed. The combination of easy digging soil and nice cool tender flax proved to be too big a temptation – leaving quite a few broken precious stalks that we gathered up.


Nearing harvest now, the plants have flowered and the stalks are starting to brown at the bottom. The rain has been a welcome relief to finish the crop off nicely. A great result we think!

Where too from here?

We would love to see a network of small growers producing linen flax in Northland, perhaps through a co-op of some sort. The potential for local processing is huge, as is the potential for value added products.It would be great to sort up a small-scale shared processing centre somewhere.

We would also love to talk with anyone with experience with spinning linen flax or equipment for the processing. At some stage soon we are wanting to organise a gathering of people interested in taking this further.  Please contact us if you would like to part of this kind of network in Northland.


Gardening Revival in Kaikohe


Mike, Jeff Griggs and Mike’s son Connor

I recently visited a new Social Enterprise started in Kaikohe by Mike Shaw and friends – the Kaikohekohe Food Co-op (or KFC for short). 

Kaikohe is built in an area of rich volcanic soil and has a history of food production. But the combination of closure of local businesses through centralisation policies, resulting  joblessness and poverty – along with easy supply of cheap but often lower-quality food through the supermarkets has sent local horticulture into steep decline in recent years.

Mike and his wife Allison have been involved in community and pastoral work in Kaikohe for over 30 years. Mike sees the promotion of local food as a logical part of helping the community to be resilient and healthy in many ways – job creation, healthy eating, and bringing the community together over common goals being just a few of the valuable outcomes.


Dripper tapes are used for efficient use of water

The gardens are situated just on the outskirts of the town, on land that was previously used for horticulture until the damage caused by Cyclone Bola in 1988 closed down the venture and that land was leased for dairying. The land is obviously well suited to gardens – surrounded by established shelter-belts, near a river providing water through drippers and it is easily cultivated. The area so far planted is close to half a hectare, and there is room for further expansion.


Given that Mike is new to horticulture, the results are spectacular. He has been assisted by his son who works full-time on the project, friends, other relatives and community members. The work is also supported by a local Northtec Horticulture tutor who takes a keen interest in what could be a pilot project for a revival of horticulture in Kaihohe.  The project has also received support from the Kai Ora fund: a joint FNDC/Te Tai Tokerau PHO programme to encourage healthy food production.

The project uses bio-intensive techniques to reduce weed and pest issues. No sprays are used and minimum amounts of fertiliser are applied directly at planting to ensure there are no run-off problems.

Mike taking time to show myself and Jeff around his spectacular gardens

Mike taking time to show Jeff and myself around his spectacular gardens

Food grown is being distributed to the community through the co-op, which will shortly have an online presence using the same software as the Northland Natural Food Co-op in Whangarei (soon to be rebranded as the Whangarei Food Co-op). In fact there will be a cross-over of food available between the two co-ops to enable a greater range in both. At present orders can texted to 021 842 302.

The Kaikohekohe Co-op will also operate as part of a new Thursday night market in Kaikohe starting 28th January, a collaboration with Jess Tuckerman. Mike and Jess were both participants on the “Thrive Northland” joint Ākina/FNDC training for social enterprises.  At the night market food from the garden will be sold with other local food along with art and crafts. The market will also feature kappa haka, story telling, massage and music.

Great work everyone!

by Clive McKegg