Janet from Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
We are so impressed by this month’s featured farmer, landscape architect Janet Luke from her beautiful permaculture farm in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. Janet told us she feels that “it is a wonderful lifestyle to be able to enjoy an urban life whilst being able to grow your own and be as self sufficient as possible.” Her farm is a sight to behold, featuring bees, chickens, Japanese quail, rabbits, and a plethora of fruits and vegetables. In the video below we get an inside look at Janet’s incredible farm, and she offers some advice for newer farmers. Below the video is our Q&A with Janet. Also check out her website – http://www.greenurbanliving.co.nz
Tell me a little about your urban farm. What is your farm’s name? Size? What are you growing? What kind of climate are you growing in?
I live in Havelock North, in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. It is on the east coast of the North Island. We live on a suburban property which is just under 1/2 an acre, which is large by normal standards. We live in a temperate Mediterranean like climate. Very hot and dry in summer with frosts in winter. I keep meat rabbits, bees, chooks, ducks and Japanese quail. I am growing all manner of vegetables, pip and stone fruit, grapes, sugar cane, mulberry, kiwi, You name it I am probably trying to grow it.
What initially got you interested in urban farming?
It was while being at home with young children and wanting to be outside gardening and teaching them about animals and where food comes from. I have a degree in Landscape Architecture and a Master’s in Environmental Planning. I used to be a pediatric nurse.
Do you use any organic, permaculture, hydroponic, biodynamic, or other methods? Explain.
My garden is based on permaculture. It really works well for us and it is very low maintenance. My chooks live in a chicken tractor and do all our weeding and fertilizing in the vegetable beds. All the food is grown organically.
Do you use compost? Where do you get it and how does it help your plants grow?
All my compost is created in situ most often by the chickens. When the chickens are on the garden beds I throw in all our kitchen scraps, grass clippings, straw, leaves, dust from the vacuum cleaner bags and they turn it all into wonderful compost. For larger branches I borrow my neighbor’s mulcher and spread this on the ornamental gardens. I also vermicompost under the rabbit cages.
Do you have any urban livestock? Chickens? Bees?
I keep meat rabbits (Rex breed). I tan the pelts and make bed throws and cushions out of the pelts. Nothing is wasted. I keep my bees in a Top Bar hive and have around 15 hives dotted around mine and friends gardens. I run workshops and online courses in top bar beekeeping and other subjects. I have also set up a Charitable Trust called www.saveourbees.org.nz to highlight the importance of the honey bees.
What do you do with the food you grow?
We consume it. I bottle and ferment a lot of it. I give it away to friends and neighbors. When I have a large bunny harvest I present friends with a rabbit carcass and then the following day everyone comes around to our place and we have a ‘bunny bakeoff’. You have to cook a dish with the rabbit and then we all vote on the best dish. A great excuse to have a drink and some fun with friends but also appreciate wonderful local, sustainably grown meat.
What is your greatest challenge in your farming endeavors?
Time. With three young boys, writing for magazines and three books and running a website life is very busy.
What do you enjoy the most about farming/growing food?
The satisfaction of growing your own fresh organic food. Teaching my family about food and sharing food with friends
Why do you think urban farming is important?
70% of the world lives in an urban space so this is where the food for these people should be grown, not trucked or flown from around the world. We all need to eat to survive so surely people should be interested in learning how to grow it themselves.
Do you think this is a growing movement? Is urban farming the future of agriculture?
Definitely. People want to relearn these skills and know where and how their food was produced.
Do you have any advice for someone just getting started?
Start small and start by growing the food you and your family really enjoys eating. Expand slowly so it does not get too much for your time and skills. Grow for your microclimate.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I have written three books, all on urban sustainability and growing your own, based on the principles of permaculture. One of my books called Backyard Bounty follows our family’s attempt to live off our urban backyard being totally self-sufficient in food. It goes on to look at what is happening in other countries such as Cuba and in the city of Detroit. It is available on kindle.