Free and/or Low Cost Opportunities to Learn Organic Gardening
Adult Education Programmes
A lot of high schools and some community centres offer adult education programmes. Classes and workshops are run by tutors who have expertise in certain areas. Many adult education programmes offer classes in organic growing, garden design or similar topics. They are generally low cost (to NZ citizens and permanent residents) as most are partially subsidised by the government.
The following link allows you to type in a key word such as “gardening” or “organic”, “biodynamic”, “compost”, “permaculture” etc and find out what is available in your area. http://www.xtend.co.nz/communityed/
If you have no experience in growing food, or gardening in general, joining a community garden is a good way to gain practical experience as you can learn a lot while working alongside more experienced gardeners. You can find a list of community gardens on the “Community Garden Directory” section of this site http://www.growtogether.org.nz/category/community-gardens-and-other-projects/community-gardens-directory/ so that you can contact a community garden near you. Many marae also have gardens and some of these are listed on this page http://www.growtogether.org.nz/community-gardens-and-other-projects/marae-gardens/
Some community gardens are worked communally, while others include small allotments that can be rented for a minimal fee ($20 upwards/year) as well as communal gardens. Some community gardens run formal gardening courses that are advertised on their website and others may offer other benefits to garden members or the wider community such as running a seed exchange.
If you are in the Waikato, you can join the Waikato Community Gardens Network
The Network was formed in 2011 and meets twice a year. The Network has a Google Group email list at this link https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups=#!topic/waikato-community-gardens-network/n6miJprNZxg with open membership where you can hear about events, open days, etc.
Notable Community Gardens
Growing for Health programme (Auckland)
In South Auckland the former Manukau Council has been running running a very successful “Growing for Health” programme in which participants are given a garden plot 5 m x 5 m in a local reserve, a gardening book and hands-on tuition. This free programme lasts for either a summer growing season or winter growing season and at the conclusion of the programmes participants will have the knowledge they need to garden successfully at home.
CC Disability Action Community Garden (Auckland)
CCS Disability Action has a garden in Royal Oak, Auckland that is open to everyone, not just the disabled community. http://www.northern.ccsdisabilityaction.org.nz/Services/CCSDisabilityActionCommunityGardens/tabid/811/Default.aspx
This year, the organisation ran Master Gardener Courses to help raise funds for the garden. To find out about what is happening in the garden, visit its blog http://www.ccsdisabilityactiongarden.blogspot.com/
Grandview Community Garden (Waikato)
Located in Grandview Road, Grandview, Hamilton.
A Waikato International Community Garden Project (WIC)
http://ooooby.ning.com/group/wic – see the Community Gardening discussion
Phone Clare and Tim, WIC Community Garden Mentors, ph 021 224 3109 to arrange a visit or to start a garden.
Create Your Own Eden: Free Composting Courses
Free courses in different composting techniques (traditional, worm farming, bokashi) are held at different locations in Auckland by Create Your Own Eden. Course details may be found at this link.
The organisation also has a free online guide to composting (visit the Composting page at this link for details.)
Farmers’ markets are an increasingly popular place to shop. Some farmers’ markets such as the Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market in Auckland also offer workshops in various aspects of organic food production and related topics such as cooking. (See http://www.glfm.co.nz/ ) Farmers markets are a good place to buy organic vegetable and herb seedlings and as you are buying directly from the grower, you can get helpful advice about how to grow plants with which you are unfamiliar.
For more information on Farmers’ markets see this link or visit the site of Farmers’ Markets NZ at http://www.farmersmarkets.org.nz/
A list of markets that belong to this organisation may be found at this link:
This site includes a community bulletin board on which courses on a variety of topics including Rongoa Maori, soils and gardening, water harvesting, use and conservation etc are advertised.
Your local public library is a great source of information about organic growing. Over the last few years, there have been a number of excellent books published on different aspects of organic growing and farming and many of these books are available through the public library system.
Organic Certification Agencies
Some of the organisations that run organic certification schemes such as the Biodynamic Gardeners and Farmers Association run workshops and field trips that provide good opportunities to learn about organic growing and farming. See the Oragnic Certification page of this site for details.
Permaculture in New Zealand
This organisation is dedicated to permaculture, defined by its founder as “the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.”
Courses relating to permaculture and are advertised on the website of Permaculture in NZ.
EarthCare Education Aotearoa
This is a trust that is dedicated to teaching people about permaculture as a way of restoring the natural environment and also improving food security. The trust holds workshops and is also going on tour with the Localising Food Aotearoa Tour in late 2012 and early 2013. (Please see the News page at this link for details: http://www.growtogether.org.nz/news/ )
Based in Wellington, this trust has a number of services including a free advice service that covers queries relating to edible gardening , as well as other issues (such as insulation and waste disposal.) They are also in the process of setting up an Eco-library service.
You can access the free advice service at this link: http://sustaintrust.org.nz/advice
or Freephone 0508 78 78 24 x 714
The link about the new library is http://sustaintrust.org.nz/advice/ecolibrary
The trust also runs events such as community garden tours in the Wellington area. Check out their events page for what is happening:
The Correspondence School/Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu
The Correspondence School is a state school that offers correspondence programmes for preschoolers to young adults. Horticulture (and agriculture) is offered at NCEA Level 1 and Level 2. (At Level 3, the two subjects are combined.)
Studying at The Correspondence School is free for young adults aged 16 to 19 who are not attending any other secondary school (provided that they are not due to turn 20 in the year that they are enrolled.)
An overview of the NCEA Level 1 horticulture curriculum may be viewed at this link:
The curriculum emphasises practical skills, basic knowledge of plant biology and nutrient requirements and scientific investigations into plant growth. It is not strictly organic, but much of the information can be applied in organic gardening. The on-line support materials for the curriculum may be read selecting from the menu at the top left hand corner of the page at this link: http://www.tekura.school.nz/departments/horticulture/
NB: Unlike other state schools in NZ which are funded on the basis of the numbers of students, TCS is funded on the basis of units of work returned; therefore people should not enroll with the school unless they are committed to doing the work.
The Soil and Health Association
The Soil and Health Association is a 70n year old organisation devoted to organic gardening and farming. It publishes Organic NZ magazine which is a good source of information about organic growing. At the back of each issue, there is a list of field trips and workshops for members. These are free or have a nominal cost and offer an excellent opportunity to leatn about organic growing and farming.
The Sustainable Living Education Trust
This organisation runs courses that include organic gardening and composting as well as water use and conservation, energy efficiency etc. There is an outline of course content at this link: http://www.sustainableliving.org.nz/Courses.aspx
Course locations are at this link: http://www.sustainableliving.org.nz/Sustainable-Living-Regional-Info.aspx
Wwoof is an acronym that stands for “Willing workers on organic farms”. Organic farmers and growers who would like to becoming Wwoofing hosts join the network and contribute some basic information about their farm, what it produces and what sort of accommodation it offers, what time(s) of year they would like Wwoofers, how long they want them to stay etc. People who would like to gain experience working on an organic farms also join the Wwoofing network and then contact hosts in an area in which they would like to work.
Wwoofing hosts offer food and accommodation in exchange for an agreed number of hours work per day. Wwoofing is a great way to learn practical organic gardening and farming and make new friends. Many Wwoofers are tourists so it there are often also interesting opportunities to learn about other countries and cultures. Most Wwoofing hosts prefer single adults or couples, however a few welcome families with children.
Tertiary Level Courses
A number of tertiary institutions in New Zealand offer courses in various aspects of organic agriculture and horticulture. While tertiary education is not necessary to become a successful organic gardener (and tertiary education certainly is not free or low cost) information about these courses will be added soon.