Grow­ing in­ter­est

Emily Har­ris talks to re­porter Rose Cawley about grow­ing food. DAILY GRIND

Central Leader - - OPINION -

For Emily Har­ris the grass re­ally is greener on the other side of the fence.

The born and bred South­lander was liv­ing the cor­po­rate life as a judges’ clerk at the High Court in Auck­land but she tossed it all in to start up Ur­ban Pantry.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion fo­cuses on bring­ing com­mu­ni­ties to­gether by grow­ing ed­i­ble gar­dens in the city.

‘‘I was read­ing a lot of stuff about what was hap­pen­ing in cities over­seas with all these re­ally in­ter­est­ing ur­ban sus­tain­abil­ity type ini­tia­tives,’’ she says.

‘‘I was left won­der­ing why there wasn’t some­thing sim­i­lar hap­pen­ing in Auck­land.’’

So the 29-year-old mucked in and started the first project which in­volved trans­form­ing a rooftop on High St in the cen­tral city.

‘‘We have done a whole bunch of dif­fer­ent projects since then – we’ve worked with businesses to cre­ate ed­i­ble gar­den in­stal­la­tions, we’ve worked with com­mu­ni­ties around cre­at­ing gar­dens and we’ve also done some event-based stuff.’’

She says the events have quickly be­come the fo­cus and the lat­est, a Crowd Grown Feast, was the most ex­cit­ing yet. The feast was a novel ex­pe­ri­ence for 100 people who pro­duced the in­gre­di­ents for a din­ner which was served up by Pop­din­ing at Silo Park.

‘‘It was a big ad­ven­ture.

‘‘The grow­ing of the food is im­por­tant, the fact that some­thing is pro­duced and people get to use it,’’ she says.

‘‘But ac­tu­ally, the real core of it is bring­ing people to­gether . . . they get to meet new people and learn skills that they can take home.’’

She says the tran­si­tional na­ture of Ur­ban Pantry al­lows a num­ber of people to get in­volved in the projects.

‘‘It’s also low com­mit­ment, one project at a time and you can be as in­volved as you want. It’s not like you are hav­ing to sign your Sun­days away to a com­mu­nity gar­den but you still get that con­nec­tion.’’

Har­ris says get­ting your hands dirty in the gar­den is a great in­ter­est to have at any stage in life.

‘‘When we were grow­ing up my dad would al­ways have a vege gar­den and I’d al­ways help out with the weed­ing, pick­ing peas and radishes,’’ she says.

‘‘I don’t think I picked up a huge amount of skill but it was there, and when I moved away from home I didn’t con­tinue with gar­den­ing for a long time but it was there on the back­burner.’’

Ur­ban gar­dener:

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