Urban farm founders honoured for work with at-risk youth video

ALDEN WILLIAMS/Stuff.co.nz

Cultivate Christchurch co-founders Bailey Perryman and Fiona Stewart are finalists in the Gardena Gardener of the Year competition.

Cultivate Christchurch, a network of urban farms for at-risk youth, came about when its founders, Fiona Stewart and Bailey Perryman, were having a coffee together and realised they both had the same dream.

Stewart, a former youth worker, and Perryman, who studied environmental management and set up several community gardens, first met when they received Vodafone World of Difference Awards for their efforts.

After tapping their networks, the pair were permitted to lease a 3000sqm plot on the corner of Peterborough and Manchester streets in the former Red Zone. In just one year the site has been transformed into an urban farm and their efforts have seen them selected as a finalist in Gardena Gardener of the Year, an annual competition celebrating horticultural superheroes run by NZ Gardener magazine.

Compost and liquid fertiliser added to the existing soil has created a space in which herbs, leafy greens and gourmet baby root vegetables are grown.

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These are mainly sold to local restaurants, some of which pay Cultivate to remove their organic waste, which is composted back at the farm. Excess crops are distributed to City Mission, taken home by volunteers or shared at a weekly lunch for all-comers.

Fiona Stewart and Bailey Perryman, founders of Cultivate Christchurch, have been selected as finalists in Gardena ...
GEORGE HEARD/FAIRFAX NZ

Fiona Stewart and Bailey Perryman, founders of Cultivate Christchurch, have been selected as finalists in Gardena Gardener of the Year 2016.

The social enterprise has just acquired a second site in Halswell, in partnership with the Wayne Francis Charitable Trust, and a third site is under development.

The farms are run along permaculture and biodynamic lines by a team, many whom are students or graduates of Lincoln University's Biological Husbandry Unit.

A central aim is to provide a place where young people who need extra support to be in employment learn about gardening.

"Our staff are a symbiosis of youth workers who are interested in gardening and gardeners interested in supporting youth," says Perryman.

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Through their work on the farm, and engagement with restaurant staff and visitors to the garden the interns build confidence – two have gone on to paid employment.

"We're not working with them in isolation," says Stewart. "We're supporting them to have connections with other people in the community as well as giving them opportunities to engage with the land."

Cultivate Christchurch is one of five finalists in this year's Gardena Gardener of the Year. Its story, along with the other four finalists, is in the October issue of NZ Gardener.

The winner of Gardena Gardener of the Year is selected by public vote. You can vote for your choice of finalist here

 - NZ Gardener

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