Com­pan­ion plant­ing

How to nur­ture young peo­ple so they grow into their po­ten­tial

Life & Style Weekend - - MIND - WITH Rowena Hardy Rowena Hardy is a fa­cil­i­ta­tor, per­for­mance coach and part­ner of Minds Aligned: www.mind­

WE RE­CENTLY at­tended a won­der­ful event, Sun­set Symphony in the Sun­flow­ers. It was held on a cane farm and was a cel­e­bra­tion of lo­cal food, mu­sic, dance and cul­ture set among a field of sun­flow­ers. It also was

an op­por­tu­nity to learn more about the work of cane farmer Si­mon Matts­son.

Sun­flow­ers on a cane farm?

Af­ter a re­search trip to the US where he learned about the ben­e­fits of com­pan­ion plant­ing for im­proved soil health and the min­imis­ing of fer­tiliser and pes­ti­cide use, Si­mon de­cided to ex­per­i­ment with a sim­i­lar idea for his cane crop.

On his re­turn, he started plant­ing crops such as chick­peas, soy­beans and sun­flow­ers along­side the cane. Sun­flow­ers grow

quickly into large, ro­bust plants of­fer­ing shel­ter from the sun to the young cane plants and keep­ing weeds to a min­i­mum. Once fully grown, the sun­flow­ers are ploughed back into the soil where they re­lease valu­able nu­tri­ents, which con­trib­ute to the im­proved soil health, and Si­mon has been able to

demon­strate sim­i­lar ben­e­fits to those he saw in the US.

So in this case, mod­ern farm­ing prac­tices can ben­e­fit greatly

from old-fash­ioned com­pan­ion plant­ing. It gave me an idea for a lovely metaphor. Like soil that has been over-farmed, many re­gional com­mu­ni­ties have be­come bar­ren areas for young peo­ple, of­ten lead­ing to bore­dom and dis­con­nec­tion.

Like the young cane plants, they can be at risk when at their most vul­ner­a­ble stage of growth.

What if these com­mu­ni­ties could be re­vi­talised and nour­ished through a lead­er­ship group of in­di­vid­u­als of all ages who, like the sun­flow­ers, could nour­ish and cul­ti­vate a health­ier en­vi­ron­ment by nur­tur­ing, pro­tect­ing and stand­ing tall along­side the younger com­mu­nity mem­bers?

Many com­mu­ni­ties have agen­cies and or­gan­i­sa­tions that ex­ist to help the more vul­ner­a­ble groups or in­di­vid­u­als.

Yet, es­pe­cially for some age groups, more is needed. In the ab­sence of healthy role mod­els and men­tors within

Many re­gional com­mu­ni­ties have be­come bar­ren areas for young peo­ple grow­ing up...

their im­me­di­ate cir­cle, maybe there is a case for this type of com­pan­ion­ship ap­proach while they are es­tab­lish­ing their roots, grow­ing stronger, mak­ing healthy con­nec­tions and be­com­ing


And once the seeds of this model have been sown and

com­mu­ni­ties are grow­ing more re­silient in­di­vid­u­als, then per­haps the ben­e­fits from that could be trans­ferred into other com­mu­ni­ties so that the re­gions can be­come more sta­ble and start to thrive again. Just plant­ing an idea …


Maybe we can take a leaf from old farm­ing tech­niques to help our chil­dren grow into happy and re­silient adults.

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