Grow to share

Janie Bickersteth

‘Kia ora’ from the other side of the world. I have recently returned from Aotearoa (New Zealand), where we’ve been on a two month ‘sabbatical’. We lived on an island 45 minutes ferry ride from Auckland, but a world away from the city. The only sounds were the insects (deafening at times), the amusing call of the Tui bird and the lapping of the waves on the shoreline below. What’s to fret about here? God’s Creation is a wonder but, like every place on the planet, New Zealand is experiencing its share of ecological challenges. The beautiful indigenous Pohutukawa trees clinging along cliff edges seem to symbolise the difficulties we all face as we grapple with “the rapid thinning of life on Earth and the climate crisis” [a quote from the intro to Field notes - see next paragraph]. Last year’s cyclone caused devastation to apple orchards, vineyards and vegetable crops. And some of the beaches are covered in a toxic black algae - a result of warming oceans and exacerbated possibly from dairy farm run off - no one quite wants to admit that this may be more than an ‘unfortunate one-off’.

But there are wonderful people taking action here too. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet up again with Peter Harris, founder of A Rocha, the Christian organisation supporting conservation sites around the world and the Eco Church programme we follow at SMV. Peter has been visiting A Rocha conservation sites in NZ and encouraging new Eco Churches across the country. If you enjoy listening to podcasts, I have found A Rocha’s Field notes really uplifting - a series on conservation and hope.

Through Peter, I met with Kathleen Ng Shiu who is supporting church congregations in NZ to grow more food. Many churches are dominated by Pacific Islanders (8% of the NZ population), the elders of whom retain their memories of growing food ‘back home’ and so have embraced Kathleen’s ‘Grow to Share’ programme - she calls it her ‘deconstructed community gardens’ project. She identified that many churches had little land and the congregations were time poor, struggling to support yet another initiative in their church, so she provided vegetable seedlings to churches for congregants to grow on at home. Kathleen says “It all began with a seed - that’s all you need to Grow to Share. Grow to share and then Share to Grow - participants are encouraged to then share their good and bad experiences of growing food”.

I think there’s something we could learn from Kathleen’s initiative. Have you started germinating your veg seeds on a windowsill yet? Have you more seeds than you need? Why not consider sharing some of your seeds or spare seedlings with people you may know at church who might appreciate a gift such as this? Growing our own food is life affirming and the harvest is so much better for us. I’m looking forward to trying to grow more veg this year - Spring brings excitement about another growing season of produce.

I look forward to catching up with people again - and possibly sharing some veg seedlings!