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.
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.
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