Grow On Katikati came into being during those surreal days leading up to the 2020 lockdown, when vege seedlings were quickly disappearing from garden centre shelves amid worries around food security. This spurred Katikati gardener Anne Billing into action. While growing extra seedlings to help local community gardens, she also saw a need to help empower families to grow their own at home.
Jizzy Green and Marie Freeman, who have picked up the baton from Anne, now coordinate the project from its garden shed headquarters on a small plot of land next to the Community Centre in the middle of town. The shed opens every Saturday morning for members to drop off seedlings they’ve grown or pick some up to take home and grow on. It’s also a place to share gardening knowhow. Or just drop in for a chat.
The big picture is to strengthen community connections through the growing and sharing of food. “It’s a bit of a foreign concept to have a shared economy,” notes Jizzy. But she has hope, citing as one example the project’s collaborative gardening groups. “Small teams of people work together in each other’s gardens. When they got together the first time, they realised each of them had a missing piece of the gardening and growing puzzle!”
As it’s turned out, Grow On Katikati has thrived during a lockdown, becoming an ideal outlet for the contactless swapping of seedlings and food. Participation had slowed over winter 2021, perhaps as complacency slipped in and ‘normal life’ resumed. But it’s a new kind of ‘normal’ Jizzy would love to see. It would be wonderful, she thinks, “To move to a world where we work more collaboratively and get in touch with the skills we had before we had supermarkets.”
For those wanting to learn, Grow On Katikati offers workshops on basic vegetable gardening techniques, seed raising, composting, planting, cooking and more. A recent cuisine workshop hosted by local cook; Jas Kaur showcased beautiful Indian recipes with silverbeet.
For those with a desire to ‘give back’ to their community, a huge sense of purpose comes from growing vegetable seedlings expressly to give to others. As Jizzy illustrates, “We have one couple in their eighties who once had a small market garden here. Returning to Katikati in their retirement they simply love to grow food crops and access to the seedlings allows them to achieve this.” Another older member enjoys growing seedlings for the project, even though she doesn’t have a garden to actually grow the food in.
At the other end of the age scale, fourteen-year-old Rikayla runs The Seedling Club, a gardening group for kids. Grow on Katikati Membership is spread across all age groups and cultures. Jizzy is keen to expand the reach further, “We’re actively encouraging our ethnically diverse community to be on board.” Some members are paid members, which helps raise funds; for less than a cup of coffee a month they receive certain membership privileges such as free seeds and reduced-fee entry to workshops. Casual members give what and when they are able.
It is early days yet. “So far it is pretty haphazard. It’s a learning situation and we still don’t know everything that we need to know,” says Jizzy. But if the success of this year’s autumn Harvest Festival is anything to go by, they are on the right track.
The Harvest Festival featured a day of very well attended gardening workshops around a shared community event they called ‘The Long Lunch’, which fed 112 people. “Everyone brought a plate using something from their backyard garden,” explains Jizzy. “One of our guests told us it was one of the best meals she had had in a long time because she lives alone and found it uninspiring to make meals and eat by herself.”
Grow On Katikati is one of a suite of community led projects under the stewardship of the local Katikati Taiao charitable trust. Find out more at katikatitaiao.org
Jizzy Green's seed rasing workshop
Community volunteer, Ros Roderick, drops off seedlings to be shared
Marie Freeman gifted seedlings at Grow On Katikati head quarters at the local community centre
The Seedling Club