Our much loved Kelmarna Community Farm

Fresh from the awesome success of its revitalised Festival in March – beautiful weather, 3,000 visitors, live music, food and workshops - Kelmarna Community Farm is focusing on its core activities and the year ahead.

Site and Community Manager Adrian Roche has been part of the Kelmarna Farm community for 20 years, first gardening as a volunteer in the 1990s and then working as a mental health worker in the gardens.

Now he spends his days harvesting, taking care of the animals, maintaining the food forest, and supporting the therapeutic gardeners.

When the garden was first set up in 1981, the connection between being in nature, belonging to a community and improved mental health was not as well researched as today, but Kelmarna has always been a place with both social and environmental goals.

‘The sustainability challenge is as much about people as about the environment. We have always supported people who have mental health issues and our therapeutic gardeners are an integral part of Kelmarna today,’ says Adrian.

Horticultural therapy is an established form of ‘care farming’ – defined as the therapeutic use of farming practices for individuals with a defined need.

The outdoor, practical and caregiving aspects of gardening, especially in a community context, have consistently been shown to be an effective therapy for a wide range of mental health conditions.

At Kelmarna therapeutic gardeners not only learn about organic food growing, they engage in many farm activities as well as have the chance to look after their own plot. This allows them to take responsibility for care of their plants, observe natural processes through the seasons and take home the produce they grow.

As Community Manager, Adrian is also very much about building good relationships with the neighbours as well as the wider community. ‘The community is where you live. There is something very special about that which I like. And being a good neighbour is key.’

Part of the community ethos is the ‘open door’ policy of Kelmarna. It is a beautiful, welcoming space for everyone to enjoy, seven days a week. People are encouraged to pop in, wander the grounds and enjoy the peaceful environment.

There’s chickens, a large market garden, food forest, worm farms, beehives, compost making, native trees, orchard, sheep and more.

Produce from the market garden is for sale at the on-site shop (open Wednesdays 10am – 4pm and Saturdays 9am – 12pm) as well as via a weekly veggie box subscription also known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

CSA is a partnership-based farming model where community members and farmers work together to grow and share food.

While the focus may have shifted and evolved over the past 43 years, the core values of Kelmarna remain the same.

Adrian: "At Kelmarna we want to show that a small scale regenerative food system like this can feed the world. That it makes the environment and people in it better and that being a good member of the community means supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our society."

For more information visit: www.kelmarna.co.nz

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Published: March 2024