Episode 14 - Small Wonder
On the next episode, screening 17 June 2018 at 7pm on TVNZ 1:
Growing a lot from a little and replenishing the soil at the same time. That’s the mission of Taranaki market gardener Jodi Roebuck on his family’s three hectare block at Omata, just southwest of New Plymouth.
He and his partner, Tanya Mercer, bought the property in 2004 when it was little more than a patch of gorse. Today it’s a flourishing market garden which attracts young people from around the world to learn Jodi’s growing techniques.
“We’re really excited to be growing the best food and making an income,” Jodi says.
They do that by direct marketing to consumers, working online, through buyers’ groups or at farmers markets.
Jodi is part of a network of small growers around the world committed to producing vegetables while also returning fertility to the land.
“The new term being used is regenerative agriculture,” he says.
Jodi has worked with leading exponents of the local food movement around the world, and says he has learned a lot from them.
“The local food movement is still getting going in New Zealand but it’s been going overseas for a long time,” he says. “It’s about accountability – people wanting to know where their food comes from and who grew it.”
Tanya Mercer says Jodi’s worked incredibly hard to establish the gardens and make sure they turn a profit.
“He’s spent many hours double-digging the beds. He’s built up the soil to 60cm and everything is well planned and thought out,” she says.
And Jodi only wants to grow crops that sell well and turn a profit.
“We record everything that comes out of the field,” he says. “I weigh what we harvest and tally it to the bed number and then look into our spreadsheets and measure them. That way we know what’s working.”
Jodi also has a small flock of sheep that he grazes on several different properties in the neighbourhood. And the way he moves them on the local roads invariably attracts some attention – he runs in front of them to lead them to new pastures.
“Yeah, I’ve been called the sheep whisperer. I read about it in a book on low stress stock management and it seemed pretty simple to me,” he says.
Find out more about Jodi and Tanya's farm here.
Hear more about Jodi's bio-intensive farming here.
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