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 our the agricultural landscape and land-use. The field trip from Whakatīwai to the South Island includes a number of case studies. We spend a significant part of the program in the Tasman District. Here the diverse agricultural landscape is characterised by a mix of small-scale agricultural and horticultural enterprises, large scale, single-crop horticulture (including apples, hops), and aquaculture. 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.
Golden Bay seafood
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. 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. A local cockle fishery / farm (little neck clam) has been managed sustainably for close to 30 years. We aim for students to have an opportunity to taste the Golden Bay seafood in a variety of dishes.
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 spend time 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 includes site visits to Milmore Downs, a Demeter certified producer of wheat and other grains (both whole and milled), and Woodside forest, a leading example of sustainable forest management.
Water management is a major issue in this region, and students will meet and learn from people from the region about the challenges, and the solutions to this often contentious issue.
The team will get a chance to meet scientists at Environmental Science and Research (ESR). We finish our field trip in Christchurch, the South Island largest city. Here, we visit a local fair trade chocolate producer, and we meet 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.
Dr Sean Weaver is an academic advisor for the SAFSA program and for EcoQuest.
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.
Our time in Nelson includes 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 the role of bees 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.
We will also have an opportunity to refine soil assessment skills and investigate sustainable energy on farms.