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It’s simple: Waste not – want not

Local growers are stepping up in response to the food insecurity of an increasing number of Wairarapa residents, in an effort to reduce food waste at the same time as helping put fresh produce on the tables of those who otherwise couldn’t afford it.

Greenway Farms’ Buzz Groeneweg, for example, recently got in touch with Masterton based food rescue organisation Waiwaste to see if there was another solution for pumpkins and potatoes that didn’t meet sale requirements.

Aside from a few superficial bumps here and there, there was nothing wrong with the produce that would have otherwise been wasted.

“It’s too good for cattle feed, and there’s only so much we can eat,” Groeneweg said.

Daniel Geuze of D and J Farms has the same philosophy – that it’s preferable any surplus produce they were left with goes to “feed people, at a time where things are tough for people”.

“It’s not first grade but it’s still good food, really, apart from a few blemishes,” Geuze said.

“It’s great it will still get used as food.”

Buzz Groeneweg said it’s good to find a waste-free solution for excess produce, like the crates of pumpkins he is standing next to.

Meanwhile, Four Corners Hydroponics only donates food its partners would buy and eat themselves, Jos Paans said.

“We try not to waste any food, so we sell what we can sell and then, if we have too much, we give it to Waiwaste,” he said.

“They do good work; they divert a lot of food from landfill into bellies.”

Molewood Orchard recently donated surplus apples to the non-profit organisation, with operator Wendell Cooke noting that, after having a bigger crop than they could get through, it was a no-brainer to reach out.

“There’s so much awareness now of food insecurity, the price of things, and people doing it hard,” Cooke said.

“It’s good for people to know Waiwaste are there – especially growers.”

Waiwaste operations coordinators Laura Garland and Aaron Middleton are both stoked about the way the organisation’s relationship with local farmers is growing.

Middleton said he believes most of the connections have started as a result of farmers trying to find a destination for produce that doesn’t qualify for commercial sale.

“They’re all quite curious about where things are going,” Middleton said.

“They’ve heard how things are tightening up for everybody and, like everyone, they want to feel they’re doing something good for their community.”

During the peak of feijoa season, for example, every second day there was a grower dropping off buckets of feijoas, Middleton said.

“They were good quality feijoas too, and they came to us because they didn’t want to see them go to waste.”

Waiwaste coordinators Laura Garland and Aaron Middleton are chuffed with local farmers reaching out to them, wanting to limit food waste.

Garland was originally drawn to Waiwaste because of its ethos of minimalising food waste and said it’s good to see the movement growing.

When she was growing up, food waste wasn’t as common as today.

“Before we all got into consumerism, we were chatting to the neighbours, passing seeds over the hedge,” Garland said.

“Now we’re all less connected and have less time.”

Among those who benefit from donations to Waiwaste is the youth accommodation and support service Carterton Youth Village, where food parcels given by Waiwaste are used in the kitchens.

Village co-founder Jennifer Poutoa said the food received from Waiwaste really makes a difference, especially given cost of living increases.

“When it comes to food, we always need more. Big appetites!” Poutoa said.

Youth residing at the village take turns on dinner duty, and Poutoa said a big part of that is also learning how to use good quality, local food to cook healthy dinners.

“It’s part of their transition into independence,” she said.

“When they move out, they need to learn how to look after themselves and how to cook for themselves.”

Poutoa said it is a special thing to reflect on the generosity behind donated goods.

“In Wairarapa, there are so many people with beautiful hearts and it’s great that we all just get together and look after each other,” Poutoa said.

“They’re looking after the community. We should be looking out for each other anyway, especially in times like these.”

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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