Our seven hectare permaculture farm began in 1996 with lots of challenges, such as gullies of weeds, long rank grass, overgrazed natives and pugged soils. But it had obvious potential and with a vision, planning and much hard graft we have got it to where it is now with a energy efficient healthy home, extensive organic productive gardens and a two hectare commercial crop of organically grown hazelnuts.
Permaculture is our design & management system, where the property has been developed with careful understanding of natural processes that enable it to become almost self-sustaining without any synthetic inputs. Though not certified we only use organic growing principles. We embrace ’care of the earth, care of the people, distribute surplus and reduce consumption’.
Water is the lifeblood of our land. Our main stream is called ‘Hikuika stream’ (‘tail of the fish’). which flows into Lake Wairewa (‘body of the fish’).
We use the Whiteheart hazelnut cultivar. It is a small tree suited to temperate conditions with good shelter and soil moisture, which our valley in Banks Peninsula provides. Hazels are not self-fertile so we need to grow two more different cultivars - in addition to our main crop.
Our management style & philosophy means minimum machinery (fossil fuels) with a focus on using local labour (our enthusiastic school children), shared experiences with wwoofers, maximum mulching, hand harvesting and sucker removal and timed sheep grazing.
We now have our own food safety certified kitchen to process the nuts. The processing equipment is powered by recently installed solar panels.
Gilda, Nick and their two children live at Hikuika Farm, Puaha valley, 5 km from Little River township on Banks Peninsula.
Gilda comes from a farming background in Northland then went on to study Horticulture at Lincoln University to gain a Horticulture Commerce degree. This followed with several years working in conventional horticulture in New Zealand & Australia and travel overseas. During this time she began to question the continual use of pesticides and ‘patch up’ approach to any issue on the property and also suffered from numerous pesticide poisoning episodes. A move to Australia brought an introduction to adult teaching in horticulture and many other more sustainable ways of managing the land.
A permaculture designer’s course in Queensland was the final confidence boost to make the shift to learning and teaching organics and permaculture.
Gilda has been involved with numerous grower groups in Australia and NZ. She helped reestablish the Christchurch permaculture group in early 2000, was an administrator and auditor for Organic Farm NZ in the mid 2000s, taught at CPIT horticulture school for 10 years, and is now tutoring part time at the Biological Husbandry Unit,Lincoln University.
Gildas expertise & passion for healthy and affordable food has been the guiding influence to the planting & development of the property. This has been complimented by Nicks enthusiasm and skills with building, design and ability to ‘fix things’.
Nick though, brought up in suburbs of Devonport developed a keen interest in the outdoors and land and went on to study as a park ranger at Lincoln University. He then worked for many years in conservation and recreation.
Both balance work with play and always make time to get into the outdoors with family and friends for adventures.