20 Sep 2021

NZ's organic farmers of the year

From Afternoons, 1:34 pm on 20 September 2021

New Zealand's organic farmer of the year has been announced at the Organic NZ Awards.

The prize has gone to Niva and Yotam Kay from Pakaraka Permcaculture in Thames.

The farm is off-grid and powered by solar and micro-hydro systems.

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Photo: supplied

They produce 12,000 kilos of food on one third of an acre, Yotam Kay told Jesse Mulligan.

"We're using a very small piece of land to grow a lot of vegetables very intensively. So, we grow a diversity of crops so we have more seasons.

"We have between 20 to 30 different crops and many varieties between them that go along with each other. So, we have beds that can have four to eight different crops in one season."

The farm is worked by hand, he says.

"We work with hand tools, we don't work with heavy machinery. And we put a really high emphasis on soil health both below the ground and create a healthy system above ground, which allows us to have really high productivity levels."

The farm gets more productive year on year, he says.

"We wanted to really show an alternative to large scale monoculture and to encourage more and more farmers to take over some part of their lifestyle block, a small piece of good fertile land and create an abundant market garden.

"Our site actually has some issues. It's a marginal site in terms of how easy it is to cultivate this area. And we can still do it so people on better sites can do more."

Their produce is comparable to conventionally grown crops, he says.

"Most of our vegetables are very much compatible in price to other chemically grown, industrial farm produce and so there really doesn't have to be a huge margin, especially if you're selling to retail customers."

His number one tip for a farmer looking at this method of farming is invest in the soil.

"Once there is a high productivity of organic vegetables and plants growing, they do a lot of the work for us.

"So, it's really finding a way that that works for farmers to farm in a way that keeps the soil healthy. And it can be a real win- win situation. So healthier soil and higher yield, we keep finding out that every year we get a higher yield."

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