In the past few years we have been working with whanau in Taranaki to establish Maara Kai at schools, Kohanga reo, marae and community gardens. Working closely with Hive Taranaki a local education provider for sustainability taught us that gardens are only as sustainable as the people working in them. The need for a mentoring service has been determined from previous experience in the region and observation that one of the main reason food gardens are not successful is because of the lack of ongoing support given to the gardeners or group once the garden has been established. It became apparent that gardens require mentoring and ongoing support to sustain themselves.

On behalf of the Te Whenua Tomuri trust we would submitted a proposal to provide a mentoring programme to assist ten organic food gardens in the Taranaki region.

The Maara Kai mentor worked with ten gardens to provide education on organic food production, provide knowledge and technical support to the gardeners and their climatic conditions, provide access to a national grower’s network, provide access to a regional seedbank and provide an online resources and information community to share success stories and increase the knowledge base.

The gardens are located in different parts of the region that provides a diverse range of soil and climatic differences and a diverse range of community. The mentoring project will provide information, education and support to encourage successful Maara Kai in the region of Taranaki. Healthy gardens Healthy people.

Who are we? Te Whenua Tomuri Charitable trust is based in Taranaki established for the purpose to educate and train people towards a more sustainable lifestyle. In particular to inspire people to take more active role in “Kaitiakitanga” or guardianship of our natural resources and practice sustainable techniques. Encouraging and mentoring people to practice organic gardening is a key objective for the trust.

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Students of Manukorihi Intermediate were taught about the healing qualities of Native plants by learning Rongoa Maori. Students got their hands dirty by entering the bush to pick the Rongoa and prepare the plant material ready for medicine making. With patience and collective energies tutor Pounamu Skelton (Ngati Te Whiti) taught the students how to make healing ointment that will treat skin rashes, bites and eczema.
Creating a Maara Kai is a great place for energetics boys to do some exercise and talk amongst themselves. Together we made a thriving Maara that grew healthy organic vegetables and some tasty strawberries in the Eltham Community garden. The boys relished in the hands on learning activities. We celebrated by picking the fresh produce and making savoury muffins to share with their Whanau.
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During a Puanga celebration 100 students made bird feeders in the shapes of stars. During the winter months there is less food around for our birds so the kids got busy and made bird feeders. they were able to take them home and enjoy the excitement from the birds as they devoured the bird seed.[/span3][/columns]

Maari Kai mentor Pounamu Skelton from Te Whenua Tomuri Trust

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