Kelmarna Community Farm

Name of case study

Kelmarna Community Farm

Location

Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand

Year

1981

Scale

Suburb/neighbourhood scale

Area / size

18000m2 (1.8ha)

NbS employed

Permaculture

Type of NbS

Created or constructed living ecosystems

Initiator

Paul Lagerstedt

Funder

 Waitemata Local Board, Auckland Council (through grants), corporate sponsorship and community membership scheme.

Budget

  Total expenditure (2023) $NZ386,106

Design group

Community, recent development Carl Pickens Landscapes

Aerial image of the farm shop, buildings, tunnel hoses, garden beds, surrounding food forest and pasture in the background. (Provided by Kelmarna Community Farm)
Climate change benefits
  • Biomass cover loss
  • Changes in rainfall
  • Freshwater flooding
  • Increased pests or spread of weeds
  • Increased temperatures
  • Indirect health, social, cultural climate change impacts
  • Loss of food production
  • Loss of other ecosystem services
  • Reduced air quality
  • Reduced soil quality
  • Reduced water quality
  • Soil erosion
  • Urban heat island effect
Societal / socio-cultural benefits
  • Biodiversity health and conservation
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Food security and quality
  • Human physical health and wellbeing
  • Pressures of urbanization (waste management, hygiene, etc.)
  • Water security and quality
Ecological benefits
  • Aesthetic value / artistic inspiration
  • Climate regulation
  • Decomposition
  • Education and knowledge
  • Food production (for humans)
  • Habitat provision
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Pollination
  • Purification (of water, soil, air)
  • Relaxation and psychological wellbeing
  • Soil building

Summary of case study

Kelmarna Community Farm is a market garden, and urban agriculture demonstration site in Tāmamki Makaurau / Auckland that employs permaculture in some of its activities toward local food systems, climate change mitigation and community wellbeing (Theory of Change and Strategic Plan, 2024). Operating on public land leased from Auckland Council, the gardens were first established as a project to showcase self-sufficiency through organic growing by Paul Lagerstedt in 1981 (About Us, n.d.). Since then it has been stewarded by various community groups, and is now managed by Kelmarna Community Farm Trust, and managed by a team of paid staff alongside volunteers. The organisation’s aim is “a resilient, healthy community that lives in a way that regenerates the natural environment; connected to the land, our food and each other” (Theory of Change and Strategic Plan, 2024).

Alongside this the organisation provides five overall goals of:
1. Food: Foster and champion a resilient and regenerative urban food system

2. Environment: Regenerate our land and support the biodiversity of local ecosystems

3. Community: Support the health and wellbeing of our local communities

4. Organisation: Ensure financial and organisational sustainability so that we can

achieve our strategic objectives

5. Tangata Tiriti: Develop a relationship with local iwi to work more authentically

in Aotearoa

These goals broadly align with the ‘ethics of permaculture’ (care of the earth, care for people, and fair share) (Holmgren, 2002) and are practiced in the day to day of the farm in an intuitive sense.

The farm operates a farm shop alongside appropriate buildings for farm management and hosting of volunteers and community members (office, propagation shed, kitchen, as well as various storage buildings). Immediately surrounding this are intensive annually cropped garden beds, incorporating polyculture plantings, alongside perennials and a wide diversity of herbs and flowers. A perimeter food forest surrounds the garden, containing over 150 species of food, medicine, and support plants in a multi-layered forest garden (personal communication, 2024). Beyond this are a series of paddocks which are grazed using a silvopasture method, incorporating swales and food providing trees for passive water and nutrient capture from the manure of grazing sheep and chickens. Native tree lines are also incorporated in between paddocks and alongside the bordering Ōpoutūkeha (Cox’s Creek). Any fertilisation requirements not provided by cycles of organic matter on site are provided by a community composting scheme that collects food and other waste resources (like arborist mulch) from the surrounding community. A new market garden established in 2022 using polyculture cropping provides for a community supported agriculture scheme (SCA) that allows the community to subscribe for a weekly vegetable box. Having evolved over a number of years, the farm demonstrates an intense diversity of projects, incorporating permaculture techniques within a broader range of regenerative, organic growing (About Us, n.d.).

Kelmarna Community Farm contributes to climate change mitigation by cycling nutrients, providing local food, incorporating perennial and multi-layered forest plantings, alongside farming systems that capture and absorb nutrients and water. The farm also provides education and wellbeing opportunities, regularly hosting volunteers of all ages and abilities, alongside a specific therapeutic gardening programme, community workshops and events. As public land, the site is also open to the community at any time, promoting the known relaxation benefits of natural environments (Lockyer & Veteto, 2013). Having a legacy of over forty years of organic agriculture means the site serves as a refuge for diverse plant, animal and insect populations, benefiting biodiversity and pollination as well as providing opportunities for scientists to research insect and plant relationships in a unique urban setting (Horrocks et al., 2021).

To date Kelmarna Community Farm has relied on local government funding and corporate sponsorship, alongside economic self-sustenance of its various projects (market garden, education, workshops, community compost). In 2024, due to the insecurities of yearly grant funding, the organisation is exploring new funding methods including a community membership scheme (personal communication, 2024). Importantly, Kelmarna Community Farm is continuing to work towards a model of urban, regenerative food production that works to produce a number of ecological, climate change, and social benefits.

Read More
A community event at Kelmarna, with a silvopasture tree line in the foreground. (Provided by Kelmarna Community Farm)
References
  • About us. (n.d.). Kelmarna Community Farm. https://kelmarna.co.nz/about-us/
  • Holmgren, D. (2002). Permaculture principles and pathways beyond sustainability. Melliodora Publishing.
  • Horrocks, K. J., Avila, G. A., Holwell, G. I., & Suckling, D. M. (2021). Irradiation-induced sterility in an egg parasitoid and possible implications for the use of biological control in insect eradication. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 12326. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-91935-4
  • Lockyer, J., & Veteto, J. R. (Eds.). (2013). Environmental anthropology engaging ecotopia: Bioregionalism, permaculture, and ecovillages. Berghahn Books.Theory of change and strategic plan. (2024). Kelmarna Community Farm.

Further resources:

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