10 Feb 2023

A taste of country in growing suburbia

From Country Life, 7:11 pm on 10 February 2023
Farm manager Coral Remiro tending to seedlings.

Farm manager Coral Remiro tending to seedlings. Photo: Supplied

Earth Stewards Urban Farm once lay on the Hamilton city fringes and is now nestled in suburbia.

Market gardener Georgia Hamilton doesn't mind the neighbours popping up around her though as it cuts down the distance her vegetables travel from paddock to plate.

Twenty-five years ago, the farm site was purchased free of houses or even neighbours nearby.

A school and childcare facility was built on either end, leaving a plot of land in the middle.

Four years ago, the parent of a school student suggested that he and the landowner begin a venture together.

"He saw a gap in the market, especially in Waikato ... and this is what has come from it.

"He employed Coral and then me and given us the bones and structure of what we have now."

That is a market garden with more than 20 varieties of vegetables grown organically.

Georgia Hamilton (left), and Coral Remiro planting new crops.

Georgia Hamilton (left), and Coral Remiro planting new crops. Photo: Supplied

Hamilton says she never expected the burgeoning suburb to grow as it has.

If you look in the right direction, you could be fooled into thinking you are as rural as rural gets - if it wasn't for the hum of cars in the distance bringing you back to your senses.

Houses now border the boundary of the farm, giving those homeowners what Hamilton believes to be good inspiration.

"We definitely get some eyes looking in on us, but that's okay.

"But we're an urban farm and we're quite lucky to still be able to be right here in Hamilton and provide food like we do." 

Farm manager Coral Remiro said the farm is 1.3 acres however only 1,000 square metres are currently in cultivation.

"When I started it was around 3,000 square metres but we've managed to reduce the amount of land that we have in cultivation because we have integrated different ways of cropping." 

It's called polyculture, meaning multiple species are planted next to each other in the same plot.

"It's more bio-diverse both above and under the ground," Remiro said.

"We've managed to intensify the amount of vegetables we produce per square metre."

Earth Steward's farm manager Coral Remiro inspects harvested produce.

Earth Steward's farm manager Coral Remiro inspects harvested produce. Photo: Supplied

Parsley, beetroot, spring onion, tomatoes, basil, radish and turnips are all growing together, Remiro said.

"All those plants grow at different stages, but some are long-term others are short-term where others take just three weeks to grow."

The farm is organically certified and follows a no-dig method.

Remiro said the certification ensures you are improving the land worked on.

"For example, we try to have as many flowering plants as possible and we have quite a lot of weeds that are actually quite beneficial for pollinators.

"We have a middle pocket of bush that is not touched so creatures can live in there. We have native bush on the boundary on the farm and this kind of thing increases your biodiversity."

Earth Steward's vegetables are sold at their farm shop and at Riverridge Birthing Centre every Tuesday between 2pm and 5pm. Customers can also subscribe to weekly boxes through their website.

Remiro said the boxes can be delivered but she is encouraging those to pick them up themselves.

"That is the point of having this kind of farm - we want to reduce food miles, keep all the produce in Hamilton and feed as many Hamiltonians as we can."