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Wednesday 12 September 2018

An urban food farm in Christchurch shows the way forward

Local workers and visitors to Christchurch in New Zealand are being offered the chance to enjoy herbs and vegetables grown right in the city centre.

Social workers Bailey Peryman and Fiona Stewart helped set up social enterprise Cultivate Christchurch post earthquake in 2015, using a vacant site on the corner of Manchester and Peterborough streets as an urban farm for growing fresh seasonal produce for local restaurants and caf├ęs. 

The venture’s growing success (spot the pun there) will see it soon take a spot in a new $80 million farmer's market complex being built on the former Re:Start site at the western end of Cashel Mall. 

The market, which is due to open in early to mid 2019, will house an indoor daily farmers market and international food hall, along with eating and drinking places, fashion shops and offices.

“Years ago, before starting Cultivate Christchurch, I had a temporary pop up stall at a farmer’s market in [nearby] Sumner," Peryman said. "It gave me a real window into how people are craving authenticity in genuine fresh produce.

“People would tell me the food ‘smelt like their childhood’, or it ‘took them back to the family farm’. That’s the power of good food. The taste and smell of it is embedded in us and can trigger powerful feelings. This is a great opportunity for us to sell our produce and to work with other local producers to sell their food too.”

Cultivate Christchurch is also changing the lives of young people taking part in its youth program.

“We provide employment training internships for young people from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds, who are not currently in education, employment or training," Peryman said. "The positive changes and transformations that many of these young people experience is something that no other agency or service has been achieving.” 

The results have been impressive. Sixty per cent of the youth involved go on to find other work, start studying or training of some sort and 40 per cent keep in touch with the team at Cultivate Christchurch.

As well as the 3000 square metre central city farm, Cultivate Christchurch now has three additional sites in the city and runs a compost arm – collecting green waste in the CBD and turning it into compost to grow the produce and bio-remediate the soil.

The business is exploring ideas for further expansion; continuing its aim to feed and help people. They have identified 80 hectares of land in the residential red zone, along the river, that would be ideal for urban farming.

“It’s in close proximity to communities that would really benefit, with space to teach people about growing food and for them to see positive relationship modelling in action. Some people see it as a no-brainer,” Peryman said.

In the meantime, the business is concentrating on opening its retail arm in the farmer’s market.

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