James Samuel's blog

Are food forests mainstreaming

Two weeks ago, as I prepared for presenting our Waiheke Food Forest project to the Local Board, I learnt of three new Food Forest projects.

Four days later I received a persistant phone call - on the third ring I finally answered it, and glad I did. A well polite and well spoken man was wanting to know if I was using www.foodforest.co.nz, because if not he wanted it. I suggested we meet, and over a coffee two days later, we shared our stories. It was clear, we both saw Aotearoa abundant with forests of food. This proud Manawatu farmer shared his vision of 10 acre food forests, up and down the country, in those highly visible locations some farms are blessed with. We'll be meeting up again soon - with time to flesh out some details and explore possibilities.

On Friday it was off to spend time with the CSP community at Awhi Farm in Turangi, and the neighbouring Marae of the Tuwharetoa.The number of times the term Food Forest was mentioned or the subject of a conversation, was astounding and a delight!

Just yesterday morning, I enjoyed a lovely Facebook chat with a woman who's energy and commitment to building a better world is truly formidable. It concluded with an invitation to help them create two new food forests on private land - one large, one small.

Last night, I gave a Pecha Kucha talk on Food Forests, organised by the lovely Jane Zimmermann and Luka Hinse. It's a great format - 20 slides and 20 seconds each - so you get to tell your message in under 7 minutes, then stand aside and let the next person inspire and inform you. A mid break allows for lots of conversation, and everyone goes home with some new ideas.

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Local Economic Blueprint highlights potential of community resilience

From Rob Hopkin's blog at Transition Culture...

bpcovToday sees the publication of what may well turn out to be one of the most important documents yet produced by a Transition initiative.  Over the next few weeks we will be returning to it, to hear a range of perspectives on it, and hope it will generate debate and discussion.  The document is the ‘Totnes & District Local Economic Blueprint‘, and you can download it for free here.  The Blueprint is the first attempt that I am aware of to map in detail a local economy and to put a value on the potential benefits of an increased degree of localisation.  If you like, it identifies “the size of the prize” of Transition.

Here Fiona Ward of the REconomy Project introduces the Blueprint:

Economic localisation has often been argued from a range of perspectives, such as being a better way forward and being more sustainable, but rarely has the economic case to back it up been clearly set out.  The Blueprint concludes that:

The evolving local food movement

With all the talk of local food and the increase in backyard and community gardens I guess it's not surprising that more websites are coming online to make it easier to find information, trade produce and setup enterprises which together are helping re-build the food web.

I've made mention of Ooooby in the past and the new Bucky Box initiative, two of my favourite home grown (NZ) initiatives.

Lately I've been supporting and following the Hawea Flat Food Forest project. Andy is the driving force behind this project and is making good use of social media, crowd funding and the open sharing of information.

The website which Andy told me about today is Practical Plants, a wiki with an abundance of information about just that, plants with practical uses.

If you're interested in being part of this growing and evolving local food movement, and so many of us are, even in small ways through purchasing from local producers, then you may find some of the links here worthy of some relaxed inspection over these holidays.


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Food Pods - A Community and Local Food initiative

In another stirring story of community get up and go, networker and all-round-inspiring activist/entrepreneur Sam Rye, writes about FoodPods , and speaks to Heinrich Ungerer, about this local food production and distribution initiative in South Africa.

Based on the idea of: …grass roots entrepreneurship which the Grameen Bank pioneered in India through their micro-loans, and offers a simple franchise model for people to take on a small enterprise to grow food for their family and to sell the surplus for income.

Happy woman in front of her crop

600 Pods and counting (6 Jun 2012). Read the full article here on Bucky Box, or watch this 3 minute video, which tells an inspiring story with practical results. http://youtu.be/-Q52DA_N7Ak

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Taking back the power

Here's another one of those gutsy community initiative storys worth celebrating.

Brixton Energy had just closed its second share launch, Brixton Energy Solar 2, which had raised £70,000.  Its first project, Brixton Energy Solar 1, was the UK’s first inner-city community-owned solar power station, a 37kW solar array on the roof of Elmore House on the Loughborough Estate.  The second was a 45kW system spread over the roofs of the 4 housing blocks of Styles Gardens.  I joined Agamemnon Otero of Brixton Energy on the roof of a neighbouring tower block on a crisp and clear winter day, with a clear view over the solar systems that Brixton Energy had already installed (see picture above), to ask him more about the project.

Can someone please explain in simple terms what this amount of power equates to. What size settlement would this cater to, if we were all energy conscious, and using it wisely in our homes, and substituting most of the water heating with direct solar?

What I saw through Rob's excellent summary was a project that engaged with people:

...we knocked on doors and find out what people want. You know, we did public engagement and served organic bread and lentils, but people wanted sandwiches and crisps, so we served sandwiches and crisps.

...all thecommunity. In a mutually respectful process:

At our community engagement events/ workshops and people would say, “I hope you guys can do this again for us and other people”. Our Solar Panel Making Workshops attract, mom’s, grandparents, little kids from the estate and beyond. They’d be making these small solar panels, and saying, “this works”.
Another time, a woman who lives here, a single mum, 4 kids, with 2 jobs, said, “this is good.  I’m saving money on my energy bills, my kids got inspired in your workshops”.  She then said, “I just hope this can go to other estates”.

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Learn to build a Rocket Stove


Erica and Ernie Wisner are coming to NZ in February

The Wisner's are experts on building RM's aka Rocket Mass Heaters. RM's are possibly the most efficient and clean burning wood fired heaters in the world. They are constructed from cheap, local, recycled and natural materials, and can be built by anyone with basic skills and tools.

The Wisners have been involved in the construction of over 600 RM's in America and have got them up to "permit standard" on suspended wooden floors.

At the moment Grant Steven in Moerewa and Graeme North in Warkworth have committed themselves to holding RMH workshops but the Wisne's are stopping in NZ on their way to Australia and have said they could come back to NZ after they have finished their Australian Tour.

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George Monbiot – The Mendacity of Hope

If this article, while insightful doesn't lift your spirits, then try visiting Rob Hopkin's blog at www.transitionculture.org, where he regularly and consistently posts articles about the great work people like you are doing, all over the world.



The summits which promise to save the world keep us dangling, not mobilising.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 19th June 2012

Worn down by hope. That’s the predicament of those who have sought to defend the earth’s living systems. Every time governments meet to discuss the environmental crisis, we are told that this is the “make or break summit”, upon which the future of the world depends. The talks might have failed before, but this time the light of reason will descend upon the world.

We know it’s rubbish, but we allow our hopes to be raised, only to witness 190 nations arguing through the night over the use of the subjunctive in paragraph 286. We know that at the end of this process the UN secretary-general, whose job obliges him to talk nonsense in an impressive number of languages, will explain that the unresolved issues (namely all of them) will be settled at next year’s summit. Yet still we hope for something better.

This week’s earth summit in Rio de Janeiro is a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago. By now, the leaders who gathered in the same city in 1992 told us, the world’s environmental problems were to have been solved. But all they have generated is more meetings, which will continue until the delegates, surrounded by rising waters, have eaten the last rare dove, exquisitely presented with an olive leaf roulade. The biosphere, that world leaders promised to protect, is in a far worse state than it was 20 years ago(1). Is it not time to recognise that they have failed?

Dick Smith and Sam Johnson at important Queenstown event


Dick Smith has been quite outspoken about his views on energy and population, so this event could be an opportunity to have some open honest discussion, on important topics. If you know people in the Queenstown area, please let them know about this.

An Afternoon with Dick Smith & Sam Johnson

hosted by Rod Oram

September 14th, 2012


Dick Smith at the ruinsDon’t miss out on an amazing afternoon hearing Dick Smith talk in Queenstown. Dick Smith is one of Australasia’s most progressive business leaders having founded Dick Smith Electronics, Australian Geographic Magazine, and Dick Smith Foods. Come along to hear him talk about what drives him as a leading entrepreneur and what he sees as the challenges and opportunities for the future.




Sam sitting under a tree wearing an NZ 'heart' CHCH teeHe will be joined by Sam Johnson, an inspiring and action-orientated young New Zealander who is best known for initiating the Student Volunteer Army in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes. One of their current projects is The Concert: A Concerted Effort where youth are asked to volunteer 4 hours of their time in return for a free ticket to the best concert the South Island has seen!




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Making better decisions - or making decisions better - with Loomio

For the last four months a team of volunteers has been working on a piece of free software called Loomio, which I think has huge potential to help grassroots groups increase their positive impact in the community.

Loomio is a free open-source web application that helps groups make better decisions together, and remarkably there is nothing else like it. The team is operating on a not-for-profit and open-source basis, and the aim over the coming two months is to get the software to the stage where it can be given away to non-profit groups, with support for how to use it.

If they can get a little bit of support, to put some food on the tables of the programmers, they'll be able to provide this free tool to groups like Transition Towns. They're now in the last few days of a PledgeMe* campaign, to raise enough money to allow two core volunteers to devote all of their time to this project for the next two months.

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Festival of Transition

The Festival of Transition is an invitation to think positively about how our lives could change as we adapt to the end of cheap fossil fuels, address the threat of runaway climate change and fix our broken financial system.
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