Dr Barbara Burlingame presenting at the Local Food Northland conference

Dr Barbara Burlingame will be presenting at the Local Food Northland conference on 13 and 14 February at NorthTec next year.

Dr Burlingame achieved her undergraduate degree at the University of California and then was awarded a PhD from Massey University. She is returning to New Zealand to take up a new role at Massey.


Dr Barbara Burlingame speaking during an FAO seminar on nutrition and environmental sustainability, as part of the preparations for the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), in November 2014. Photo credit: ©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto

We are fortunate to have a presenter of such calibre here. She has spent the past 16 years based in Rome, working for the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, including the last four as Deputy Director of the Nutrition Division.

The following video reveals her knowledge on nutrition, diet and sustainability – a great fit with our aspirations. You can read more about her here.

Fresh food co-op Onerahi hub

Story and photos by Jacqueline Low (thank you Jacqueline). Originally published in the September edition of the Onerahi Orbit.

Since the article was printed, the Onerahi hub has opened! And in late September, The Fresh Fruit Collective achieved 100% local supply for the first time. Here is their Facebook page.

David and Sylvia Moore of Tahuna Place, Onerahi set sail from their home in Wellington for Fiji and Vanuatu. On their return they tied up at Marsden Cove and decided they wouldn’t leave Whangarei.david-and-sylvia-moore

David and Sylvia Moore, above, aim to provide 100 percent locally-grown produce by this time next year.

They moored their boat Kiss at the Town Basin and lived on it while sorting out a place to call home on terra firma.

They are in the throes of settling
into their new house but that has not dampened their ardour for setting up a Fresh Food Collective Hub at Onerahi.

The Fresh Food Collective was the brainchild of Laura Cates of Whangarei and was started by her in January, 2015. It provides a means of buying fresh produce at a much reduced cost.

Customers place orders online and pay a week in advance. On picking up their produce they can pay for the next week’s supply. Produce is purchased by the Collective according to the number of orders, to avoid having a surplus.

On advice from a friend Sylvia and David started going to the Fresh Food Collective at the Whangarei Club central depot, every Tuesday, to collect and order their fruit and vegetables. There they met Laura. Sylvia offered to help her several times and one day in March Laura asked her if she would fill in as she had two staff absent. Sylvia tried it out and enjoyed it. Laura asked if she would be interested in taking over from her.

“I said, well, we’ve just bought a house. I can’t really afford to buy a business and she said, ‘I’m walking away from it’.” Laura chose to walk away because of family commitments and handed her share of the business over to David and Sylvia Moore.

George Lavich, whom the Moores
 had met earlier, when volunteering for the Fifa Under 20s Football event at Whangarei was asked to help Sylvia and David to run the Collective in the CBD.

The Moores had been giving George wood and they discussed the idea of the three of them forming a company.

“We said would he be interested perhaps in joining us. I’ve got a financial background and office management, David has been in marketing and production work and George had been in management and marketing as well,” Sylvia said.

“George knew a lot of people in Whangarei and he doesn’t mind going to talk to people, the market gardeners and people like that and I’m quite shy really when it comes to that. So, that’s how it evolved,” she said. It became the Fresh Food Collective 2016 Limited and was incorporated on March 24, this year. There are three directors, George Lavich, David and Sylvia Moore.

Laura had said to Sylvia that a hub at Onerahi was on the plans but they had not got that far yet.

David and Sylvia took up the cause and are aiming to find a facility available to them for one day a week to set up a Fresh Food Collective Hub at Onerahi in the second half of September. The venue will be in the vicinity
of the Onerahi Community Centre.

The thought behind the original hubs was to place them close
to schools so from 2:30pm to 3:30pm when caregivers pick up children they can also pick up their vegetables and fruit.

They are planning to do a mail drop in Onerahi which will have all the detailed information.

“Three of us are going to walk Onerahi, delivering flyers” Sylvia said.

The business relies on volunteers, “and we are meeting our costs because we want to do it as a community thing rather than making money,” she said. The Moores are retired and don’t need to have it as a business: “So long as we can get produce.”

People are saying, “You’re not even charging for delivery,” she said. If five people in a work place put in an order the Collective is happy to deliver those orders for free, within the CBD, Sylvia said.

They have two women who are regular volunteers, Joanna Davis and Kath Tipene and there are others but we have to build on that list,” Sylvia said. When Sylvia and David started they had only 36 customers to deal with now they’ve reached the 100 mark.

While people do save a lot of money through the scheme, at this time of year the savings are not as lucrative as at other times “but what we are selling is fresh.
“Our vegetables and fruit are fresh because it was picked the day before and some is picked on the day,” Sylvia said.

The collective prides itself on sourcing fresh fruit and vegetables and is aiming to have 100 percent locally grown produce by this time next year. They got a contact for garlic and purple kumara, shallots and ginger from Dargaville “and they will grow for us,” Sylvia said.

At the moment they gather all the local vegetables and fruit they can. George, Sylvia and David collect it fresh on the day from growers like Huanui Orchards and the gardens at Poroti. Fruit has always come from local orchards and also from some individuals. George arranges to go and pick their oranges, mandarins or other fruit crops the day before or on the morning of the collective.


George Lavich (left) and David Moore weigh mandarins at the Fresh Food Collective Hub at the CBD.

Sylvia tries to get a different selection each week, such as a stir-fry pack one week and a roasting pack with kumara, pumpkin and potatoes the next. They have found a source at Dargaville for purple kumara and another at Waikaraka to supply tomatoes.

“We want to support the local growers. Local produce usually means the odd surprising slug but these days that is a stamp of approval,” Sylvia said.

Quite often people give them extras.

“Someone bought us lemons the other day so a lemon went in every bag. There is a minimum of nine different items that you get in a $23 bag and 6 in a $12 bag but we have had up to 15 items per order. If people give us produce we put it in because it is nice to share”.

“This is where we try to get in with the community gardens as well. It could be that we give them seeds or something for the next lot and they give us some produce for the bags.”

Sylvia said that they are not young anymore and she finds although she has a finance background all of a sudden she has to start going back into Excel and all it entails. “I’ve now streamlined it so it’s not taking as much time but was just a mound of paperwork. “It’s relentless because Tuesday comes, by Wednesday we’re frazzled so we have an easy day but there are all the emails and things to deal with.

There’s always a sigh of relief once the stuff is bagged and there’s a lot of work behind the scenes but Sylvia said: “We’re enjoying it. It’s keeping us out of the doctor’s surgery. We haven’t got time to think about what’s wrong with us. You have to get up and go.”

Who to vote for in the DHB elections?

A big issue we face in local body elections is knowing who to vote for. For those of us interested in moving to more sustainable food systems, the District Health Board (DHB) elections are very important. Our health system remains largely focussed on dealing with primary health care based on orthodox approaches. The massive investment taxpayers make in our health system is captured increasingly by the treatment of non-communicable diseases – for example type 2 diabetes. The default treatments are pharmaceuticals.

I am not qualified in health, but as a person interested in my health and the health of my whanau, I want to see the health system focus much more on nutrition and system change to ensure that all New Zealanders have access to fresh, mostly unprocessed, healthy food. When we achieve this, I am confident that health care will cost a lot less. We will be spending less money on pills and more on food.

Corporate kitchen operators have a reputation nation-wide for cutting corners on the quality of meals delivered to patients. A hospital that feeds, even occasionally, patients biscuits for breakfast, is sending exactly the wrong message to them. Thankfully the Northland DHB was the only DHB to resist the national rollout of pre-packaged meals shipped from out of centralised kitchens. The board insisted that food would continue to be prepared in their hospital’s kitchens. An even better outcome would be to have the kitchen run by local businesses, who purchase directly from local growers.

This reveals two key policies for DHB candidates to champion:

  1. Supporting the localisation of food supplied from hospital kitchens and cafeterias.
  2. Embedding the importance of good nutrition as as a cornerstone of health initiatives.

So far, I know of two candidates for the 2016 elections that are supportive of these aspirations, Debbie Evans and Libby Jones. There may be others – who can you add to the list?

debby-evans libby-jones





Debbie Evans (left) and Libby Jones

Local Food Northland has an aspiration to have 2,000 members by mid 2017. Ideally, in time for the next round of local body elections, we will have at least 5,000. If you want to help us to create a stronger collective voice to influence the policy makers, join us.


Food recovery in Northland

Dr Laupepa Va’a of the Northland District Health Board (DHB) is working on a major project investigating the feasibility of a more integrated approach to food recovery. He is busy engaging people involved in food recovery and food access.

Globally, we waste one third of food produced. The good news is that we produce enough to feed everybody already. This graphic from the Love Food Hate Waste website reveals over one trillion dollars of food waste, most of it from the degradation of nature.


In New Zealand, the average family throws away $563 worth of uneaten food per year. Bread is at the top of our waste list – we throw out 12,856 tonnes of bread.  Click here for a larger image.


Reducing our waste is a win-win. In the Northland context, we know that there are many children going to school hungry. Food for Life is doing a great job in Whangarei, but they are only able to operate in a handful of schools. Hungery school children don’t learn very well.

In addition to providing better food access, there are many environmental benefits from reducing food waste.

Sources for food recovery are diverse. In a recent post we featured Free Fish Heads, a website designed to connect those who have fish heads and normally dispose of them, and those who eat them. In Whangarei, Food for Life, operating across the road from the Whangarei Growers Market, gathers unsold food from generous stallholders and turns it into meals for school children.

The challenge is to identify all the potential sources of food and get it to those who are most needy.

If you would like to share any information with Laupepa please contact him: Laupepa.Va’a@northlanddhb.org.nz


Jeff’s travels in Sweden and Denmark

Earlier this month Jeff Griggs returned from visiting Denmark and Sweden. Here are his reflections on his time there.

Both are amazing countries that look after their people. Most are bi-lingual especially the young people. Very old histories makes New Zealand seem very young. They both have high tax rates that pay for a lot of social services. Nobody I met resented this. Both countries are dealing with immigration which is challenging given their social history and openness.

People are very friendly and open. It seems like everybody has summer houses much like the Kiwi bach. The summer is so short that when the weather is fine everybody is out in the sun. Getting sun burnt doesn’t seem to bother them. Summer has long days -light at 4:30 in the morning and still light at 10:00 in the evening. Winters are just the opposite with very short daylight hours.

Both countries excel in the food they grow, which is surprising given the short growing season and marginal conditions. Makes one think of how much New Zealand could do given our ideal growing climate, soils and water availability. windmillsRenewable energy (solar and wind) has had major investment and wind mills and solar panels are everywhere.

There are lots of home gardens but not so many farmer’s markets. I visited a few organic bio-dynamic farms staffed by young people (the equivalent of woofers). When winter hits they all head to warmer climates. There are good distribution systems linking organic growers in Scandinavia to the public.

Recycling is very big around domestic and agricultural waste (e.g. all thatch left after wheat harvest is bailed and stored to burn for water heating). Animal waste is recycled back to the fields in a precise fashion. The European Union has regulated how much fertiliser  farmers are permitted to use based on soil type, crops grown and harvested etc. This has all come about due to the Baltic Sea becoming eutrophic due to agricultural runoff.
Bikes rule and are given priority over cars in cities and rural areas where separate bike paths have been built adjacent to highways.
New Zealand has a lot to learn from these countries in relation to renewable energy, recycling – especially agricultural and wood waste, bike infrastructure, and looking after each other.

A Local Food Northland conference?

Local Food Northland is in the early stages of planning a local food conference. A big part of the shift to a more sustainable food systems is working together – so the diverse people and groups that have an interest in food and health can learn about what each other are doing and build productive connections.

We are still finalising the dates and venue, but it could be as early as February 2017. We are talking with a potential keynote speaker from the U.S. who has a prominent role in promoting food policy initiatives.


These are the 25 goals for Vermont’s Farm to Plate strategic plan. It makes sense to adapt this for our own purposes and part of the conference will be about shaping up some of these goals in the Northland context. A sustainable food system in Northland has to be grounded in our Treaty partnership, so we will make some room for one or two goals specifically focusing on kai Māori.

Notice that many of these goals are focused on commercial food production and distribution, others are about food related aspects of social and environmental sustainability and others are about policy.

Which of these goals motivate you? If you can see yourself being involved in promoting one or more specific goals, please contact us. You can leave a comment below, or contact Jeff Griggs, Clive McKegg or Peter Bruce-Iri.

A better environment and sustainable food systems

We waste too much food because it is too cheap according to Jason Clay, the Senior Vice-President for Market Transformation at the World Wildlife Fund. If we were to include the cost of the impact of food production (the externalities) food would cost twice as much. The World Wildlife Fund was established over 50 years ago to protect nature, but faced with the enormity of the task, 20 years ago they determined that food production  was the biggest threat to biodiversity.

“the single largest threat to every place is where and how we produce food”

In his 2010 Ted talk Jason Clay identified that 300 to 500 companies control 70% of the connections between producers and consumers in each commodity. Just 100 companies control 25% of that trade. These companies are typically motivated to optimise their profits and the food supply chains continue to get longer. As value is extracted in the middle of the chain, the rewards for producers diminish. Ironically and tragically, millions of small farmers don’t have enough food.


The bottleneck in food systems (from Jason Clay’s TED talk, 2010)

Jason Clay’s thinking is directly relevant to Northland and our move to more sustainable food systems. We want to see more local producers, less processed food and closer connections between producers and consumers.

The other important work for the World Wildlife Fund is working with inefficient  producers that tend to create more damage environmentally and the failure of governments to enforce regulations – again relevant in Northland.

Jason Clay is in New Zealand now. Listen to Kathryn Ryan’s interview here. Here is his 2010 TED Talk.

Kaiora honey

Manuka honey has enabled the Murray whanau in the Far North to re-establish a strong economic base back on their rohe (tribal lands). The story of Northlanders re-establishing their cultural and economic base on the land is a important and encouraging step in our move towards sustainable food systems.


Their story is told in this Country Calendar feature. (Note that the episode is incorrectly labelled on the TVNZ website). You will need to register to watch it.

Tae Murray returned to the north a qualified bee-keeper and his sister Blanche studied business and project  management. The rest of the whanau came back home to join the business. Kaiora Honey is now a thriving business exporting high value honey.

Manuka honey earns a huge premium in the international marketplace based on its health-giving qualities. The sought after healing properties of manuka honey are quantified in the unique manuka factor (UMF) rating indicated by the concentration of leptosperin in the honey.

Manuka and kanuka were once characterised as scrub, to be slashed or burnt to make way for pasture. The honey’s new status as a superfood is changing the dynamic of the landscape throughout New Zealand. People are now doing what was unthinkable a couple of decades ago, and replanting manuka. It is a pioneer plant that rejuvenates the soil and is many times more effective at sequestering carbon than pasture. As manuka and kanuka stands are enhanced, we have the opportunity to enrich ecosystems, protect waterways, and rejuvenate communities and local economies.

Here is Dr Josh Axe outlining the benefits of manuka honey.

And here is the article he refers to about the benefits of manuka honey. They include:

  1. reducing reflux and balancing the digestive system
  2. treating acne and eczema
  3. treating staph infections
  4. healing burns, wounds and ulcers
  5. healing tooth decay and gingivitis
  6. relieving inflammatory bowel disease
  7. boosting immunity
  8. relieving allergies and sinusitis
  9. improving skin tone and texture
  10. improving sleep.

Kaicycle- food waste recycling

Wellington’s Kaicycle is supporting the shift to sustainable food systems with urban food waste recycling. They use bikes to collect organic waste from homes and businesses, compost it, and use that compost to grow food. Half of that food is given away to organisations such as Kaibosh.

It is inspiring to see sustainability embedded in their business model. Their bikes make their operation carbon neutral, they reduce organic waste going to landfills, and grow food to provide better access for those in need.

Here is a Radio New Zealand interview about Kaicycle.


The u.Lab free course is highly relevant to local food

Have you done a MOOC yet (Massive Online Open Course)? I have completed Otto Scharmer’s u.Lab course twice now, because it was so good. It is on again in September.

It is highly relevant to our aspirations for local food for at least two key concepts in the course. Otto Scharmer uses hi Theory U to illustrate how our societies and economies around the world have evolved through four stages. The first is state centric, based on hierarchy and centralised control. The next two, free market and social markets, introduced markets and competition and then moderating influences such as NGOs and unions. These three sectors continue to operate in conflict and have exhausted the extent of their value. Proponents of each suggest that more of their chosen ideology will provide the necessary remedy.


Otto Scharmer points to the emergence of a new societal model  – the co-creative society. It is the earlier three sectors, but rather than competing, they are working together – seeing and acting from the whole. In the local food context, we would not have monopolies dominating. The links between food production, consumption, health and a thriving local economy, that are so evident to us, will drive decision making when we get to look at things more holistically.

The second very relevant concept is about our listening. Otto Scharmer guides us through the need to suspend the voices of judgement, cynicism and fear to help us get to a space when we can co-create and together “step into the future that wants to emerge”.

Last year a group of Northlanders get together for weekly “coaching circles” as part of this course. If a group of us were to do the course we could create a coaching circle specifically focussing on local food. Please comment if you are interested.

Here is a link to a short self-paced introductory course and to details of the full course.