From carrots to climate change, the inner-city garden with a cause
How do you feed the world and fight climate change at the same time?
A theoretical answer is being robustly put to the test in Auckland’s first inner city organic market garden.
The Organic Market Garden, OMG for short, on Symonds Street in Eden Terrace, is a microcosm of environmental possibilities.
It operates as a market, data collection centre, teaching hub and composting site for local residents and businesses. The food it grows - such as kale, fennel, peas and aubergines - is sold to neighbouring residents, businesses, and visitors, enabling its staff and volunteer capacity to teach and share regenerative growing practices in an urban environment.
But more than that, vision holder Sarah Smuts-Kennedy hopes the information collected from the site will inform city planning policy.
“In order to make our cities safe to live in, in the future, we believe that they need to be cooler, have more local access to food, have better carbon cycles and composting opportunities – and we are modelling what we think that looks like.”
Lush rows of spinach, tomatoes, lettuce, micro greens, herbs and edible flowers are planted together in mixed beds, increasing soil microbiology and feeding opportunities for bees.
Sarah said the garden also brings ordinary people together through its volunteer programme and gives them immediate skills they can put towards making a future that’s greener and safer to live in.
“It’s no good if we just have two people who can farm really well, we need 500 farmers in Auckland who can.”
The OMG site, along with many other plots of land in the Eden Terrace area, was acquired by City Rail Link Limited in 2013 as a potential route for CRL tunnels and station. Before OMG took over, the 600sq metre plot of undeveloped sloping land was vacant, littered with demolition debris, rubbish and weeds.
Once gifted in 2018 to OMG and their umbrella initiative, For the Love of Bees, the site blossomed into a completely functional market garden including garden beds, a shed, greenhouse, irrigation, terracing, composting facility and covered wash station.
“We’ve demonstrated how possible it is to turn a challenging piece of land into a high functioning entity, drawing people from everywhere to the area,” Sarah said.
“Now we just need councils and governments to take notice.”
In OMG’s first six months…
Sold 333.5kg of produce, around $7000-worth in total
Added over 10 tonnes of organic matter (carbon) to the soil, from soil tests done by Eurofins
Facilitated 7 university groups to use the garden site for course work
Averaged 70 volunteer hours of work every week
Also averaged 29 working bees, adding up to 435 volunteer hours per week
Hosted 12+ community groups such as Gardens for Health and Mt Eden Rotary
Helped found the Urban Farmers Alliance Aotearoa
Developed a composting service collecting organic matter from local residents and businesses with funding from Ministry for the Environment
Find out more about OMG’s journey here: https://www.fortheloveofbees.co.nz/omg