Sharing our stories

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The annual waiheke high school tour

Every year for the past 7 years now Anton Forde and I, ably assisted by a raft of volunteers, have taken Waiheke High Schools year 12 and 13 Viticulture classes on a great tour around the country.  

The concept Anton has developed for this annual tour is one I think needs to be replicated around schools everywhere.  It begins with the students learning in the class, in small part with these journals, and with their hands in the soil at the Waiheke High School gardens.  The students are tasked with the challenge of creating a product, whether that is garden produce or services for offer that is then packaged and offered for sale.  With the funds received the class put their hard earned money towards an annual tour, which serves as a reward for their achievements.

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The tour element is where I come in.  My challenge, which isn’t hard to be honest, is to find hosts and experienced practitioners of sustainability who are willing to spend some time with us and share their stories.  The support we’ve had for this tour never ceases to astound me and the straight up and down way those we spend time with are willing to share the good and the bad that they face on a day to day basis is gold for these students. 

Over the years we have had the good fortune to experience a wide range of production practices that span from the conventional through the less conventional.  We’ve encountered growers, producers and end chain suppliers giving the students a new lens into the fields that they might one day consider pursing careers in. For the students involved, who spend much of their time in a smaller island culture, we hope these tours provide a window into systems they’ve not encountered before and on a scale they not used to.

There have been so many inspiring encounters for everyone though for me some encounters really stick out as highlights I’ll not forget. Erin Simpson and Clare Buckner at Te Koha Organics allowed our students to experience life as woofers on their Biodynamic Orchard learning all about the joys and challenges of getting high quality produce from the soil to the consumers.

Kay Baxter and the team at Koanga gardens taught us about the challenges facing conventional production systems and introduced us to the concept of nutrient dense produce an aspect that sent me on a path to better understand what is truly healthy produce and how to enhance my own production systems as you will have seen in these journals.

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Kay Baxter discusses nutrient dense produce with our 2012 students

Peter Procter and Rachel Pomeroy have been so generous with their time on a number of occasions.  Under their kind instruction our students have built some of the best compost piles I’ve ever seen.  Under the stars we have all benefited from Rachel’s knowledge of the cosmic interplay our crops and production practices have with the stars and planets that surround our little planet. 

Peter Proctor and Rachel Pomeroy instruct the 2011 students on the art of compost making. Forgive the windy background noise but hey this is practical field stuff

The down to earth practical element of sustainable production that our hosts have shared with us is something young people need to understand and fortunately through these first hand encounters our students have. Connecting aspiring young practitioners to experienced practitioners and to our elders is something that our current learning systems are challenged with.

At the end of every tour we find a quiet place to have a swim, or a picnic, and reflect on the tour and to discuss what we’ve learned.  It’s a magic wee tour and I am thankful for the opportunity to spend  time chatting with these students contemplating their lives beyond school.

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The class of 2015 chilling on the beach after a long day of learning