We discover the Pakaraka farm on the internet, it seems a well-known place for learning about permaculture. When we contact Yotam, he accepts to meet us right away, we are really looking forward to visiting. Surprisingly, when we visit other farms of the market gardening connection, we realize he is part of this group as well and understand quicly that he is integrating both permaculture and market gardenning approaches.
We cycle there one morning and enter a dirt road which continues over an old wooden bridge and up on the hill we go. Yotam welcomes us warmly and introduces us to his two very cute little daughters. Pakaraka is farm within a farm actually. Yotam and his family are sharing the land with the two original farmers there, Jeanette and Harry. They arrived six years ago and are into their 5th vegetable season when we get there. With Jeanette and Harry they take care of the olive trees, which produce about 600kg of olives for both oil and pickles, a chestnut forest which can even be a source for flour and cows and sheeps in the pastures.
On the Pakaraka farm itself are a food forest and a market garden. The whole place is designed according permaculture zoning principle, the house, wash & pack station as well as cold storage are central to the gardens which are surrounding one side of the house. The house and all the systems here are off-grid, solar pannels provide the electricity and rainwater is collected, there is also a biodigester based on veggie waste for kitchen gas.
What is pretty amazing there is that the design exploits every trait of the landscape. There is a single flat area on top of the hill which is where both the house and the main area for the market garden are located. A few extra beds are located on the contours at the beginning of the slope which has been worked into a few flat terraces for the furthest veggies which are mostly those who stay the longest in place as the fast rotating ones are cultivated on the flat area. There can be about to 8 different crops in a single beds in one season ! A long rotation are plants which stay in the ground for 4 to 8 months (the longest) and the short ones are less than 2-3 months.
The rest of the hill slopes is occupied by a food forest and an enclosed area which goes around the veggie garden where the ducks and chicken are the guardian protectors of the plants taking out all the slugs. There are about 200 perenials plants planted to occupy different layers in this food forest. The abundance on such a small area, 1000sqm, is incredible even when we notice there is only a small green house used both for the tomatoes which are of diverse varieties and grafted on the stock of highly disease-resistant tomatoes and as a nursery. Plastic tunnels are used over the bed to prolong the season. Yotam emphasizes the need to buy high quality material since he isn't especially fond of plastic, he buys long-lasting plastic tunnels and weed mats to make sure they will last for decades. The weed mats are used to cover the soil during 2-3 months before the bed is prepared and planted. The weeding takes about 2 to 3h per month and the only weeding policy is to take it out before it goes to seed. This is helped by planted with high density which essentially acts as a living mulch and woodchips are used in pathways and for the long term crops. Yotam makes his own compost but he brings in the material he needs, seaweed and woodchips, as he needs a lot of compost (about 60m3 for his 1000 sqm garden).
The market garden and the food forest are the main revenu for the farm, the veggies and fruits are sold on weekend markets during 6 months of the year and to about 10 restaurants and shops. His aim one day is to be able to grow enough during 6 months of the year that the next 6 months can be spent taking care of the land and not selling. The excess of the production is donated to a woman shelter. Yotam advocates for good prices in organic food in New Zealand. It is important to keep the prices what they need to be as they represent a fair price for the producer and allows real food to become more important, as a source of both nutrition and health. The budget for a household regarding food went from 50% down to 10-20% max which is way too low for proper good food and correct income for the farmers.
Yotam has had a passion for sustainable living and environment since he was 19 years old as well as his wife. Both of them traveled around the world to see and learn about it. They accumulated both a lot of knowledge and are now sharing this knowledge through a lot of different workshops as well as by taking on 3 apprentices per year on-site.
The importance of sharing and encouraging people to grow their own and/or live a healthier and more sustainable life, to take responsibility as well for their own effect on the planet, has made Yotam organized the whole system for learning so everything is arranged so that communication tools such as boards for example as well as processes around the garden are properly set-up and things can run smoothly.
With the righ organisation, Yotam says you can grow all your vegetables in a 6h week, it is work but it is possible. As his house is currently used for the workshops, the apprentice courses and living there with all his family, the next project is to build a house right next to this one so the old one can become a full-on learning center and the house a private living area. For this project, Yotam also favours self-sufficiency and community-based solidarity as he got a loan from a living economy savings pool which is basically like an off-grid bank system between members of the living economy community.
We are truly impressed with his place, his energy and his convictions as well as the whole design which seems to include not only the farm but to extend far beyond and above into their own lives and those of the ones that cross their paths.
Site internet: www.pakarakafarm.co.nz
Facebook page: @PakarakaPermalculture
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