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A partnership between NorthTec and the Ngāti Rangi Development Society Incorporated (NRDSI), via the Te Matarau Education Trust contract with TEC, has resulted in five former students gaining employment and a highly productive vegetable garden being developed.
The NRDSI Social Enterprise has seen a 2.5 acre garden planted in Kerikeri, near the Old Packhouse Market. The work, a pilot scheme for what is hoped will become a larger operation, has been carried out by former NorthTec students who studied horticulture and sustainable rural development.
Produce from the garden will be sold at the Kerikeri Packhouse Market every Saturday morning from April onwards, for the next few months. The wide range of vegetables grown for sale includes potatoes, kumara, peruperu (Māori potatoes), carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, silverbeet, red and green cabbage and kohlrabi.
The project, which started last July, now aims to acquire and develop a further plot of 20 acres in the area. As well as providing large quantities of produce, this would enable the employment of between 10 and 20 further students, direct from NorthTec horticulture programmes.
The first five employees studied at NorthTec’s Kaikohe and Kerikeri campuses, gaining the National Certificate in Horticulture (Level 3), or the level 4 Certificate in Sustainable Rural Development (SRD). The horticulture programme is an entry-level qualification for people wanting to work on a commercial property, while the SRD programme is geared towards creating a land-based business resulting in self-employment or self-sufficiency.
Both programmes teach the technical skills and knowledge required to produce crops in a sustainable manner and lead to a range of job opportunities.
Project manager Rob Downing said: “This is an ideal employment opportunity for post-tertiary students who have a real will to learn. They will be involved in the full spectrum of working the land; planning, preparing sites, selecting ideal produce requirements, sowing seeds, nurturing plants, preparing fertilisers, weeding, harvesting and presenting produce at the markets.”
He said the garden was a complex operation utilising separate areas for different types of crops, to minimise the risk of exposure to pests and ensure there was a continual supply of vegetables to sell.
With around 2,000 of each type of vegetable planted, it is very labour-intensive, especially as the use of machinery is discouraged so that the project can be replicated in other areas.
Having recently installed an irrigation system at the garden, the team at Ngāti Rangi are now working on signage and branding for their market stall, in preparation for their first sales next month.
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