Ngati Tawhirikura Hapu teamed up with horticultural scientists, crop technicians and soil specialists to explore how horticultural science could be used by community and home-based gardens.

Community participants included Tāhuri Whenua (Maori Vegetable Growers Association), Taranaki Seedsavers and gardeners from Tarereare, Muru Raupatu and Parihaka marae. The home of the project was Katere Marae’s amazing vegetable garden which grew three heirloom vegetable varieties as the focus of the study – a squash, a red onion and a kumara.
Members of the community and garden enthusiasts learned about the chemistry of soil, horticultural techniques and the characteristics of different vegetables and how to apply this science to their own gardens to build the long-term yield and nutrition of their crops. Participants were able to develop a greater understanding of the benefits of growing food locally and effective soil management. Particular emphasis was placed on the impacts on whanau health and wellbeing as well as acknowledgement and support for personal responsibility and kaitiakitanga of soil, food, and seed resources.
The project culminated with harvest and testing of the chosen vegetables for their nutritional properties. There is potential to continue this monitoring into the future to track the health of the soil and the changes in vegetable nutrition. The project also produced a growing and nutrition guide for their four profiled vegetable cultivars including a snapshot of current soil analysis, vegetable nutrition, plant anatomy, growing preferences, and disease management.