Te Rito Gar­dens evolves

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KRIS DANDO

Grow­ing or­ganic food is one thing, turn­ing it into a busi­ness is an­other – but the stu­dents and tu­tors at Te Rito Gar­dens are tak­ing the leap.

Te Rito Gar­dens was es­tab­lished last year, with a small num­ber of stu­dents tak­ing up the op­por­tu­nity to learn hor­ti­cul­ture skills in a prac­ti­cal environment. Based in two spots in the old Porirua Hos­pi­tal grounds, the course runs for 18 weeks, with semesters start­ing in Au­gust and Fe­bru­ary. Stu­dents earn cred­its to­wards a level 2 cer­tifi­cate in hor­ti­cul­ture from Whi­tireia Com­mu­nity Poly­tech­nic.

Ten stu­dents took the first course about a year ago, with 14 cur­rently en­rolled.

Co-or­di­na­tor Steve Wilson said while they have had sup­port from sev­eral lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions, such as Porirua City Coun­cil – and re­ceive grants from a va­ri­ety of sources – they needed to take the step into the busi­ness side to stay sus­tain­able.

‘‘Peo­ple like what we are do­ing but we are strug­gling fi­nan­cially, so we had the idea of start­ing a busi­ness so we can fund our­selves. I’m sure we have prod­ucts that ev­ery­one needs, I’m con­fi­dent we can make a good go of this.’’

Last Tues­day saw the of­fi­cial open­ing of Te Rito Or­gan­ics Ltd, which will be run by the stu­dents and tu­tors. Their ser­vices will in­clude seed banks, de­sign­ing and build­ing vegetable gar­dens, sup­ply­ing com­post and mulch for or­ganic gar­dens, and ad­vice on grow­ing veg­eta­bles and com­post­ing.

Mr Wilson said grad­u­ates of the gar­den course have been in­vited back to help run Te Rito Or­gan­ics, pro­vid­ing them with a work­place and fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion and self-de­vel­op­ment. He hopes it will be self­sus­tain­ing by 2015.

In­vited guests at the open­ing in­cluded Ta­tou De­vel­op­ment Trust mem­bers who help over­see the en­ter­prise, Porirua mayor Nick Leggett and mem­bers of Ngati Toa, who blessed the site where the or­ganic food will be grown.

Mr Leggett said, ‘‘It’s a trib­ute to the peo­ple who have started this that they are now tak­ing the skills for train­ing and build­ing a busi­ness. You’re giv­ing peo­ple the abil­ity to shape their own lives and be sus­tain­able en­vi­ron­men­tally, cul­tur­ally, so­cially and, now, eco­nom­i­cally.’’

While trust chair­woman Judy Ni­cholls said Te Rito Or­gan­ics was ‘‘pro­gres­sive . . . a new way of show­cas­ing the tal­ents’’ of the stu­dents, its busi­ness man­ager Grace Le­ung de­scribed the new di­rec­tion as ‘‘scary’’.

‘‘It’s a very spe­cial day for us. We’re not just pro­duc­ing or­ganic veg­eta­bles but now we’ll be build­ing vegetable gar­dens for peo­ple so they can grow their own at home.’’

Con­tact Steve Wilson on 022 034 1171 or the Te Rito Gar­dens of­fice on 238 2960 for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion.

Or­ganic be­gin­nings: From left, Te Rito Or­gan­ics Ltd man­ager Grace Le­ung, stu­dents Dion Gard­ner and Reuben Wilson with some of the mulch that is avail­able for the pub­lic to pur­chase.

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