The profit has been used to fund equipment including a dehydrator and a still.
learned much more about enterprise, better gardening skills and about future choices I could make.”
The school is now in its third year of growing maize, and students from Years 6, 7 and 8 have gone about the business of becoming maize farmers, creating the A-maizing Maize Company. Besides managing the maize on their leased land (the initial 5ha, plus more recently another 2ha), they have also established a science trial on the school grounds where they measure the yield and quality of eight Pioneer-brand maize hybrids that haven’t been planted in New Zealand before.
Bastienne says the school makes around $5000 from its maize crop, although potentially the profit could be up to $20,000. The money has been used to fund equipment, such as the spinning wheels, a still to extract essential oils and a food dehydrator.
“The intent wasn’t to make heaps of money – it was to make some money for learning,” she says. “We started the maize crops with all different kinds of people helping us, and the next stage is how do we develop this so we give back to the community? It’s starting to happen already as we’ve leased an extra 2ha to grow more maize so we can pay those contractors. That’s social enterprise coming full circle,” explains Bastienne. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the problem solvers when they were getting the programme off the ground, and they’ve learned plenty from their mistakes along the way.
They nearly killed their first lot of lavender, when they planted it in too-rich topsoil.
“One of the main challenges was just getting the lavender to survive,” says Eliza, who is caretaker for the lavender gardens. “At first we tried doing cuttings – we just planted them in the ground and watered them and they died. So we ended up buying lavender and then we found an expert, who has explained we need to plant the cuttings in grit and then transfer them once they get their roots. We’re now going to try and propagate our own lavender.”
For Eliza, the most rewarding part of the project has been finding activities for
the classes to do and teaching students how to make products.
“With lavender, you have to know what kind of lavender is good for cooking and what kind is best for making lip balms. It’s fun to be in charge of something.”
Similarly, corn caretaker Katie says they nearly killed their first crop of maize when her class was too heavy-handed with their urea application; they had to save the plants by watering them every day and scraping all the urea away.
“We were spreading it by hand and we threw too much on. This year, we got the helicopter to come and do it.”
Another setback came when both of the school’s beehives died because the queen excluder wasn’t taken out. The excluder stops the queen from laying eggs in the honey supers, providing cleaner honey, but if it is not removed in autumn, the queen is prevented from moving upwards with the cluster to keep warm and dies from exposure. The death of their queens over winter spelled doom for Hukerenui’s hives, and Makenna, as caretaker for the bees, was terribly upset.
“She was in tears, because the bees fed into so many other things we were doing, such as the lavender and the manuka we use to make our hand-creams and balms. I said you can’t lie about it, you have to write about it in the project: here’s what happened and this was your solution,” says Bastienne.
Luckily, one of the school’s experts from the Whangarei Bee Club was able to give them another hive and last year it produced 21kg of honey. Demand for the school’s honey has outpaced supply, and they are hoping to get another hive.
The manuka balm is another popular seller and is also used in the school for the children’s mozzie bites.
“The Year 1s call it the magic balm,” laughs Bastienne.
There has been a phenomenal growth over the last 10 years in the use of biostimulants and biofertiliser products.
Many mainstream academics have been sceptical of these products, considering they are not based on ‘real’ science, while some farmers and growers have been buying and using them successfully in increasing amounts. The opposite is also true; some farmers and growers have been sceptical about some of the claims being made, and there are academics who are passionate advocates.
There is no simple list of what works and what doesn’t, so this article is to help guide you to decide which products have real potential to help you farm better and more profitably, and those that should be treated with scepticism. These are divided into four major subtypes, some with sub-types of their own: • Microbial inoculants • free-living fungi • arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) • free-living bacteria • •
This is not an exhaustive or exclusive list. For example, compost teas contain microbes so they could be included as ‘microbial inoculants’ even though they contain more microbe species than are listed, but they may also contain proteins, amino acids and humic substances. Seaweeds, the most common biostimulants, are not the only plants that extracts are made from – many terrestrial plants are also used in both commercial and farm-made extracts.
The range of mechanisms by which these products can impact plant growth and quality are almost limitless. They include: • enhancing nutrient availability in soil, eg through increased mineralisation of soil organic matter by microbes; • increasing root biomass or root surface area, eg bacteria that release plant growthpromoting chemicals; • increasing the plant’s nutrient uptake capacity, eg mycorrhizal fungal association and bacterial inoculants for legumes increase nitrogen uptake; • resistance to drought and salinity stress through microbes that produce protective compounds or induce the plants to produce more of their own protectants. As biofertilisers can be made from any previously living animal or plant, there is no equivalent categorisation as for biostimulants. Generally they can be grouped by how processed or decomposed they are. For the broad definition of biofertiliser, it includes materials that are in a raw, or close to raw state, like slurry and farm yard manure (FYM), while those that are well decomposed include compost and biodigestate.
For the narrower definition, raw (undecomposed) seaweed can be used as