Delivery Sites

We foster a deep understanding of, and model practical solutions for sustainable living.  All chores are shared (e.g. cooking, cleaning, caring for the grounds and equipment). There is a solid emphasis on learning about and food and food preparation. We contribute to growing food and maintaining gardens at the places we stay for this program. 

In the first two weeks, students will gain an in-depth understanding of Aotearoa and its history, and of the Golden Bay community and case studies. The agricultural landscape and land-use in Golden Bay is highly diverse and is characterised by a number of small-scale agricultural and horticultural enterprises. The climate is warm-temperate, and conducive to a variety of crops, which inspire innovative local cuisine. There are many small food businesses, occupying a variety of niches. There is a wide variety of small cafes, restaurants and craft breweries. The market in Takaka is a great place to find fresh produce and artisan foods year-round. 

Case Studies & Field Visits

During our time in Golden Bay, we make a number of field visits.

Te Tai-o-Aorere Tasman Bay supports commercial and recreational fisheries, as well as aquaculture. Seafood is an important resource for local people and visitors alike. We explore a number of issues related to fisheries, and to aquaculture in Aotearoa. Both greenshell mussels and salmon and are extensively cultivated in marine settings around the coast, but salmon is also farmed in freshwaters. The Anatoki Salmon Farm is an example of the latter. In addition to producing salmon for the market, Anatoki Salmon operate their farm as a tourist attraction, diversifying their income and creating a site of recreation for local people. With luck a fish can be caught, smoked on-site, and taken home for dinner that evening! 

For our learning about non-traditional sustainable farming and food production practices, students tour a cockle fishery/farm (little neck clam). This beach and intertidal area have been managed sustainably for more than 25 years. In addition to understanding the unique challenges of shellfish farming, students will have an opportunity to harvest and use these beautiful Golden Bay clams in a variety of dishes. 

Te Waikoropupū

The Waikoropupū Springs is considered a highly sacred place to Māori. For Ngāti Tama ki Te Waipounamu, the iwi who are the kaitiaki of Te Waikoropupū, these springs are sacred, and the health of its crystal-clear waters is central to the spiritual and cultural wellbeing of the iwi. There is a huge concern for the quality of the water in the aquifer that feeds the springs. As part of a holistic exploration of the issues surrounding catchment land use, quality of fresh water and of the waters in Te Tai-o-Aorere Tasman Bay, we visit Te Waikoropupū. This forms a basis for the module on Integrated Catchment Management which is delivered in Golden Bay. Governance models of managing water are part of our learning here as well.  

For students to engage with our place and our people, we spend time learning about the Mana whenua History at Kaiteriteri and early contact histories at the Wainui Inlet & Abel Tasman Memorial.  

Kervella Cheese

Alan and Gabrielle at Kervella Cheese have built and operate a micro-fromagerie, producing artisan cheeses for the local market. On our field visit to Kervella Cheese, students will see the facility that Alan has built, and explore the technical and legal challenges of operating at small scale in the New Zealand regulatory context. Alan and Gabrielle introduce the different cheeses they make, and lead a discussion on the art and techniques of making fine cheese.  

Takaka Community Gardens/Fertile Ground

With Sol Morgan as their guide, students visit the Community Gardens in Takaka, a public space for growing food and building resilient community networks. Following this Sol takes us to visit Fertile Ground, a private collective with which he is involved that co-operates to grow their own food. At Fertile Ground students pick up tools and work in the gardens with the members of the collective, sharing stories, ideas, and knowledge.  

Ellis Creek Farms

Ellis Creek Farms produce beef for the local market. Once a conventional farm, the land is now worked regeneratively, and the meat, once destined for the mass market, is processed and marketed locally. The visit to Ellis Creek is an opportunity to for students to understand the complex drivers and real challenges faced by New Zealand farmers in the transition to sustainable practices. And…. we have sausages for dinner!

During the SAFSA course, the kitchen is seen as an extension of our classroom. Encouragement to prepare the local fresh produce available for the day's meals, or for canning and preserving for the off season is offered to all students. We move between various kitchens and facilities and our kitchen team will help you develop the skills needed to prepare what has been grown, foraged and harvested from the fields. Combined with our food workshops such as cheese making, confidence in the kitchen and working with food is gained; allowing for some great creativity to be explored. Bon Appetite! 

Dave Wilson-Howarth, SAFSA Field Leader & Student Liaison 

Extended Field Trips

Extended Field trips for the program take us to the Nelson side of the Takaka Hill. In the Nelson-Tasman District, we spend time in Motueka, Golden Downs, Nelson and adjacent areas, as well as Christchurch and Canterbury. 


The land around Motueka, the site of our stays at Riverside and Te Āwhina Marae, is some of the most productive agricultural land in Aotearoa. Major crops are apples and hops, but there is a wide range of other crops, including vegetables, herbs, berries, kiwifruit, and cherries. The town itself is small but bustling, not only does it cater to the agricultural sector, but it also serves as a gateway to nearby National Parks, which attract visitors year-round. While much of the agriculture around Motueka is conventional there are strong communities that have established sustainable approaches, and momentum is growing with a number of individual, iwi, and state-led initiatives in food systems.

Te Āwhina Marae

The marae is a communal complex or hub whereby Māori - the indigenous people of Aotearoa and their respective iwi [tribes] practice their cultural lifestyle. Some Māori live and work on marae, while others live in the community and participate in wider societal activities and economies and return to the marae for cultural events. The students have the opportunity to stay at Te Āwhina Marae for several days, hosted by Te Ātiawa and Ngāti Rārua (the mana whenua iwi) and learn about the values, governance systems, and traditional methods of agriculture and food production of these iwi. Staying at the marae introduces students to unique ways of experiencing the world through an indigenous lens. While at the marae students meet with members of a Māori organization and explore sustainable agriculture through the implementation of indigenous values.


When in Motueka, students will stay at Riverside Community. Riverside supports a diverse range of agricultural activity, from the dairy herd to the community gardens, and students have the opportunity to engage with community members in their fields of expertise. Beyond the field, orchards, and gardens, Riverside also offers students the opportunity to learn simple cheesemaking skills, and to participate in the preparation of the weekly community lunch. A further aspect of the stay at Riverside is the experience of governance and decision making within this community, with a workshop session led by community members that explores the benefits and challenges of approaches other than standard business models.


The Canterbury field trip begins in Christchurch, the South Island largest city, with a visit to a local fair trade chocolate producer. The team then meets up with Dr Sean Weaver, founder and Executive Director of Ekos - a social enterprise focusing on market-based mechanisms for environmental protection and sustainable development.  Ekos offers ethical carbon offsetting solutions and is exploring innovative ways to support sustainable land management, restorative forestry, climate resilience, and regenerative agriculture.

We then move north through Canterbury, visiting Milmore Downs, a Demeter certified producer of wheat and other grains (both whole and milled), and also Woodside forest, a leading example of sustainable forest management. Water management is a major issue in this area, and students will meet and learn from people from the region about the challenges, and the solutions to this often contentious issue.

Dr Sean Weaver is an academic advisor for the SAFSA program and for EcoQuest.

credit iStock

Credit iStock

Golden Downs

Golden Downs, the family farm of Willy Cameron, lead academic for the SAFSA program, is the site of engagement for students in the relationship between trees, forests, and food. Activities at Golden Downs include establishing and maintaining poly-cultural systems of production, seed raising and selection, mushroom cultivation, and pastoral farming. Students will also have the opportunity to see how timber production fits alongside food production in this system, and how both relate to biodiversity protection through the creation of a high quality agroecological matrix.

During our stay at Golden Downs, we make an Apiculture Field trip to the picturesque Todd Valley area of Nelson, where students spend time with one of EcoQuest’s master beekeepers in learning the art and science of beekeeping, and bee’s role in sustainable agriculture and food production.  Activities for this field day include touring a honey and pollen processing facility, learning to use all the products of the hive, and of course tasting local honey and pollen. We spend time in sustainably managed apiaries learning to safely handle and inspect bees and their hives.  


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