Converting entire section into organic garden paying dividends for New Plymouth man

For a lot of New Zealanders, setting up a little vegetable plot with a few herbs and a bit of lettuce in the backyard is a nice way of connecting with nature.

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Every inch of Karl Freeman’s property is an urban farm dedicated to organic vegetables. Source: Seven Sharp

But what if you let the garden take hold of the entire property?

In three short years, Karl Freeman converted a quarter-acre state house section into an urban farm dedicated to growing organic vegetables.

“We wanted to try out this urban farming thing. There's been a movement spreading around the world,” Mr Freeman told Seven Sharp.

“You can see what productivity you can have instead of the usual unused backyard.”

Now, he's making a living from what was once a lawn with his business Farm Next Door.

Every Sunday, Mr Freeman takes his vegetables to the local market, where customers come back week after week.

“I don’t need to be paid $1 million an hour. Obviously, I want to be making a good living from it and you can.”

Now, Mr Freeman’s little farm next door is moving next door – by helping his neighbour grow her own garden.

In just four months, Mr Freeman has helped Mary turn her lawn into a lifestyle, and 15 others are looking to get on board.

“We’ve got at least 15 people in Taranaki that want to start their own organic small-scale farms now.”

In a region dominated by dairy, the urban farmers believe going local, seasonal and sustainable is a way of changing our access to food – and now they’ve got some major backing.

Eve Kawana-Brown represents the Pivot Fund, a $100,000 grant that aims to stimulate agriculture in Taranaki.

“Farm Next Door is a project that holds a lot of potential promise on many levels,” Ms Kawana-Brown said.

“ It's about local food, growing regeneratively, giving people an opportunity for income based on small land holdings and there's an environmental benefit if people start to learn how to produce good food locally.”

A team of researchers will now look at how small-scale operations like Mr Freeman’s farm could work together across the region.