A Morning on the Green - For The Better Good's organic micro-farm.
A bowling club might seem an unlikely spot for an urban organic farm, but in Porirua, the greens are bursting with life. In place of an immaculately mowed square, there are rows of compost bins, tomatoes, pumpkins and happily swaying corn. Instead of post-match drinks, the clubhouse hosts WELLfed, an organisation which teaches basic cooking skills to the local community using seasonal produce.
When we arrive to check the place out, we are greeted by Jess the gardener, who proves to be endlessly passionate, and like every urban farmer I have met so far, keen to share every ounce of her knowledge. She points out the swelling watermelons, the little orchard’s prized first apple, and hearty rows of basil, destined for pesto. There are plump pumpkins, beans, zucchini and rows of empty beds prepped for ‘Gourmet Greens’.
At the moment, most of the food is used by WELLfed, but the plan as the garden grows is to sell it to chefs around Wellington. Jess is understandably proud, especially as the soil here sits on mostly sand and silt. “I’ve layered it with nitrogen-fixing cover crops like buckwheat and lupin, but we couldn’t do it without the compost,” she tells us, and points over to the row of wooden bins, where grass clippings and seaweed are drying nearby.
Standing with my bare feet in the damp earth, I start to understand that this is more than a garden - it’s a recycling centre, but a regenerative one, designed by nature. Next to the bins sit piles of used For The Better Good Better Bottles, which have been collected from the Wellington region. They’re ‘made from plants’, compostable and aren’t designed for landfill or recycling but instead, come here to complete the second part of their lifecycle.
Rescued food waste, wood chip and other natural inputs are then added alongside shredded Better Bottles to break down by the heat of the compost.
If you’ve never stuck your hand in a hot compost pile, you haven’t lived - it’s alchemy in action and completely addictive.
Anyway, this process also turns the bottles from waste products into a valuable resource. The compost (aka black gold) helps plants to draw more carbon from the atmosphere (where everyone knows we have way too much), making them stronger, and growing more nutritious veggies that can help feed hungry communities.
What’s happening here goes beyond sustainability. It’s not enough to do no harm - what’s needed now is regeneration. It’s happening in Porirua and all over Aotearoa; urban farmers are turning whatever patches of land they can get their hands on into local food hubs that help move us closer to carbon neutral. They also serve as teaching centres, where everyone can come and learn how this simple yet intricate system works.
To see the heart and community that went into building this For The Better Good micro-farm see their post on Becoming Integrated With Nature.