Te Rito Gardens evolves
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.