A Kiwi gar­dener goes back to her roots

Mum-of-five Jade Te­mepara isn’t con­tent with be­ing an award-win­ning gar­dener – she wants to pass on her skills for the good of her com­mu­nity. She tells Kylie Bailey how she’s tak­ing Maˉori nutri­tion back to its roots

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J Jade Te­mepara walks into the kitchen of the Christchurch-based café and cook­ing school she opened just over a year ago, hands dirty with soil.

She’s just been dig­ging fresh veg­eta­bles out of the gardens that sur­round Kaˉkano Café & Cook­ery School so she can teach a fer­ment­ing work­shop this evening.

The for­mer New Zealand Gar­dener of the Year, Eller­slie Flower Show medal win­ner, gar­dener and food ed­u­ca­tor is flush with ex­cite­ment. It’s just an­other day at the of­fice for Jade.

But for Jade and her iwi, this place is more than an of­fice. It is the hub of their com­mu­nity and a space that, as a cul­ture, will help Maˉori re­claim their food se­cu­rity.

You only need to speak to Jade for a few min­utes to know she is a vi­sion­ary. I had the plea­sure of first in­ter­view­ing her in 2011 when she de­vel­oped the gar­den­ing char­ity, Hand Over A Hundy: a one-year chal­lenge where young fam­i­lies learned to grow and pro­duce their own veg­etable gardens for $100. Back then, in her late 20s, Jade was in­spir­ing; pas­sion­ate about cre­at­ing a rev­o­lu­tion through food.

To­day, the 36-year-old is am­bi­tiously evolv­ing a so­cial en­ter­prise model – based around food and gar­den­ing – that can be trans­lated to indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties globally.

Jade has se­ri­ous cred­i­bil­ity in this field: in 2012, she won New Zealand Gar­dener of the Year. The fol­low­ing year, she cre­ated a gar­den ex­hibit at the Eller­slie Flower Show to demon­strate to peo­ple what veg­eta­bles you can grow in your own back­yard for $100, and took home a sil­ver medal.

The mum-of-five is again par­tic­i­pat­ing in this year’s New Zealand Flower and Gar­den Show. But this time she will be show­cas­ing the work of Kaˉkano, the amaz­ing so­cial en­ter­prise she has cre­ated that is de­signed to help Maˉori nur­ture their health and nutri­tion by em­brac­ing tra­di­tional food, food gath­er­ing prac­tices and, of course, gar­den­ing.

The Christchurch café and cook­ing school is a hub for the local Maˉori com­mu­nity and, like Jade’s vi­sion, it is already building food re­silience.

“I’ve been in Christchurch phys­i­cally for two years. It was a good de­ci­sion but also re­ally hard to get a new busi­ness up and go­ing here,” she says frankly. “We’ve been in op­er­a­tion for 15 months but have been con­nect­ing with com­mu­nity since the day af­ter we ar­rived.”

Jade be­gan by run­ning work­shops. “We were do­ing things around Maˉori food, dif­fer­ent food

prepa­ra­tions, fer­ment­ing, cheeses and yo­ghurts and re­ally fo­cus­ing on whole­foods. We just started building a net­work.”


En­gag­ing with schools and koˉhanga groups, Jade knew she needed gardens and spa­ces to de­velop her vi­sion, and the lo­ca­tion she found for the café’s home – next to the Cen­tral Li­brary Peterborough – proved serendip­i­tous.

“There was a huge home­less pop­u­la­tion around that would utilise the li­brary,” she says. “We knew they were our neigh­bours so we said, ‘We’re about to put a café here – do you want to hang out and help?’”

For eight weeks, they turned up ev­ery day, five days a week and helped Jade and her team for 10 hours a day. This mo­ment led to Kaˉkano work­ing with Help For The Home­less. The so­cial en­ter­prise also sup­ports re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ini­tia­tives in Christchurch Men’s Pri­son, as pris­on­ers grow food for the café and cook­ing school.

“Home­less use our kitchen to do things and in­ter­act with youth and el­derly who visit. In Maˉori, we call this man­aak­i­tanga – it’s more than just feed­ing them, it means to hon­our who they are and spend that time with them.”

There are more sur­pris­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions, too. Jade is in talks with the own­ers of Lyt­tel­ton’s famous Roots Restau­rant, and Tourism NZ brings in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers to Kaˉkano to help them un­der­stand more about Maˉori food her­itage.

“We’ve been in­volved with nu­tri­tion­ists, life­style coaches. It’s im­pacted ev­ery sec­tor. I knew it had

Jade knew she needed gardens and

spa­ces to de­velop her


the po­ten­tial to. I just didn’t know it was go­ing to go this fast.”

So it feels fit­ting that Jade is re­turn­ing to where it all started, in some ways, with her third time ex­hibit­ing, this time at the New Zealand Flower and Gar­den Show.

“The Flower Show was a huge cat­a­lyst for my ca­reer,” she says. “It re­ally pushed me to push my­self. It gave me a whole dif­fer­ent plat­form of talk­ing about fam­ily needs. They are com­ing to see roses and ar­range­ments and I had a vege gar­den. It re­ally chal­lenged peo­ple. My theme has al­ways been food and how it should be as com­mon as hav­ing grass.”

The story of where food comes from and the need to pass on gen­er­a­tional knowl­edge around how to grow our own are now more im­por­tant than ever, says Jade.


She has be­come deeply pas­sion­ate about the im­por­tance of seed her­itage, point­ing out that if our gen­er­a­tion can learn and pass on knowl­edge it will cush­ion fu­ture gen­er­a­tions from en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts, such as cli­mate change and dis­rup­tions and scarcity in food sup­ply.

Taught to gar­den by her two ko­ros (grand­fa­thers), Jade was in­spired first to feed her five chil­dren – now 17, 15, 12, nine and three-and-ahalf – from her own back­yard.

“My ko­ros taught me the di­a­logue of how we do it and why we do it. But what I quickly re­alised was this kau­papa isn’t cel­e­brated out­side of your own whaˉ­nau. We should be proud as a cul­ture and as a peo­ple of our con­nec­tion to the ocean and the land. Cul­tur­ally that con­nec­tion has been bro­ken down so much, and I knew it was my job to help re­build it.”

That’s how the seed was planted for her new big vi­sion – Kaˉkano Café & Cook­ery School.

“Kaˉkano means seed and I was cap­tured by the story that my grand­fa­ther told me when he came down to try to make me grow pota­toes at my house,” Jade ex­plains.

“I said, ‘I don’t have room for them in my gar­den’. But he said, ‘These are sig­nif­i­cant; they are five gen­er­a­tions old. They are what your great­grand­mother used to feed my mother and these are the last thing I have of my father. If you don’t grow these, baby, they are go­ing to die with me.’”

Jade says she was “pretty an­noyed but cap­ti­vated” by his story. “I took them and grew them and, be­cause I didn’t know when they would be ready, for once I had to ob­serve, which is a very Maˉori thing to do. My wairua (spirit) told me to leave them in for an­other two weeks and when I pulled them out they were the size of my hand. I passed him the seed pota­toes and he had tears in his eyes. I just got it for the first time. I got how pre­cious our seed re­silience is for our sovereignty, it’s im­por­tant no one can take that con­trol.

“It just changed me. It made me go from a gar­dener to want­ing to pro­tect our diver­sity in food.”

Jade says her big vi­sion – which is funded through Te Puˉ­tahi­tanga, a part­ner­ship be­tween the nine iwi of Te Wai­pounamu (South Is­land) – is to give com­mu­ni­ties the tools and ed­u­ca­tion to nour­ish and feed them­selves prop­erly. And each com­mu­nity would find their own way of achiev­ing this.

“Not the way I would see it. Dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties have their own re­source and rich­ness and com­mu­ni­ties are not all the same.”


A friend let Jade know about the Whaˉ­nau Ora gov­ern­ment fund­ing scheme through Te Puˉ­tahi­tanga – cre­ated to sup­port new ideas and build en­ti­ties that ad­dress health, poverty, hous­ing and so­cial devel­op­ment.

“They were look­ing for ideas that were not about be­ing at the bot­tom of the hill and in the am­bu­lance but ones that had the power to change our con­ver­sa­tion and sup­port our com­mu­ni­ties,” Jade ex­plains.

But when she logged onto the web­site, she got a sur­prise. “I was on their web­site as one of their peo­ple. They had two so­cial Maˉori en­trepreneurs. My­self and Em­me­line, who runs Com­mu­nity Café in Auck­land. She’s the boss.

“What they wanted you to do was en­cap­su­late the spirit of Maˉui. That re­ally res­onated with me be­cause in our myths and le­gends, he just did it. He was ac­tion. I thought, ‘Yeah man I’ve got heaps of ideas’. Where do I start and stop?’”

And that’s how Kaˉkano was born.

‘Home­less use our kitchen to do things and in­ter­act with youth and the el­derly’

The ini­tial con­cept was a health cen­tre based on food, move­ment and medicine. The idea was to use Maˉori prin­ci­ples of grow­ing and gar­den­ing and de­velop classes to share the teach­ings of tra­di­tional food prepa­ra­tion and ron­goaˉ – the tra­di­tional use of plants as medicine.

“I got through to the ini­tial 15 but never heard back and I was just like, ‘It’s not meant to be. Sweet as.’”

But the pro­posal that Jade had writ­ten lit a fire within her.

“I had just had my fifth baby, was home school­ing four kids and liv­ing in a res­i­dence in the foothills – in the mid­dle of nowhere. I knew big change was com­ing so we made the de­ci­sion to put the house on the mar­ket and move north to Christchurch.”

Thank­fully, at the same time, the gov­ern­ment came back to her and asked her to re­fine her vi­sion.

“I knew I needed to cre­ate a new so­cial en­ter­prise that is multi-lay­ered and that ev­ery­one could be in­volved in. I wanted the profit to go into food re­silience, sovereignty and ed­u­ca­tion. To make sure that our youth could get in­volved, that our young kids could get in­volved and that our el­derly had a place to go.

“Kaˉkano is all about whaˉ­nau and com­mu­nity and cre­at­ing some­thing that can be­come an au­thor­i­ta­tive voice for our food is­sues.

“I’m in­vested into this idea of be­ing healthy and get­ting us healthy. As I’ve cre­ated this project, I’ve chal­lenged my­self the whole time about how we can en­rich that di­a­logue and that ex­pe­ri­ence.”


As well as Maˉui, Jade’s whaka­papa in­cludes Taˉne Mahuta, and his prin­ci­ples con­tinue to guide Kaˉkano’s prac­tices. “In mythol­ogy he is the god of the for­est, the birds and ev­ery­thing,” she says. “At Kaˉkano, we’re very strict about what we do and don’t do. We don’t use in­tro­duced meat, milk or anything that is veer­ing away from our tra­di­tional.

“We don’t have cof­fee. In­stead we drink tea from the bush in the form of kawakawa leaves. We choose the na­tive ma­jor­ity over ev­ery­thing else.

“For­ag­ing is a huge part of what I do. Sea­weed, diving, kaimoana (seafood). I’m in the bush as much as I pos­si­bly can. The nar­ra­tive needs to be, ‘It’s right here for peo­ple to use’. They use it, they love it, they pro­tect it.”


For Jade, it’s been a chance to de­velop new skills and an adapt­abil­ity she never knew she had. “My own pro­fes­sional and per­sonal devel­op­ment has been gang-busters,” she grins.

“I’m in a whole new realm of think­ing. I know that Maˉori can’t stay in this current state that we are in. I have the chance to pi­o­neer a way of look­ing at this to­tally dif­fer­ently while keep­ing ev­ery­one in­tact and with­out tak­ing their mana away from them.”

And she’s en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to get in­volved. “Cre­ate your own path­way for your own fam­ily,” she in­sists. “To me, noth­ing is more im­por­tant or worth pro­tect­ing than mak­ing sure we pass on knowl­edge for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

Jade’s next big vi­sion is to fuse Maˉori food re­silience and sovereignty with the tech space. “And I’ll be bring­ing my peo­ple with me when we do it,” she says, de­ter­minedly.

“We have al­ways been a round peg in a square box and we don’t fit into that. It’s not our iden­tity. We carry with us the spirit of Maˉui. We are nav­i­ga­tors. We are the ones with the ideas and our own so­lu­tions. We need to cre­ate space for our iden­tity.”

‘I wanted to make sure our young kids could get in­volved and that our el­derly had a place to go’

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