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Meet Jenny, Phil and Tim Grainger, the founding family of Venerdi.

As well as continuing to help run operations at Venerdi HQ, our hands-on founders are hard at work developing restorative and sustainable initiatives to help the environment and engage the local community in the process.Jenny and Phil live on their off-grid Kaukapakapa farm in with a passion for native tree planting on their land. In 2019 they helped to kick start City To Farm, an organisation which collects food scraps from businesses around North Auckland and takes them to rural farms for composting. Here we sit down with Jenny and Phil to find out they’ve been up to lately on the family farm.

How did your native tree planting days begin? Where did the idea stem from?

The starting point was our desire to put back what should have never been taken and in doing so, doing our bit for the planet and for future generations. We started our planting days as a way of promoting forest regeneration by getting the community involved in helping us plant native trees on land. 

Do you have a goal number of trees you want to plant?

We have been retiring land and planting natives in earnest since 2008. Our plan is to continue planting until all of the virtually unproductive hillsides are restored to their original Flora and Fauna. Currently we are up to 34% native cover and our goal is to get to 40% cover. At that point  we will have planted 35,000 native trees! We are hoping to complete most of the planting this year although for the next few years we will go back and plant the bigger Kauri, Kahikatea, Tanekaha and Rimu in amongst the nursery trees.

How frequently do you do planting days?

Through the winter planting months we are planting as often as possible, but every few weekends we open the planting up to whoever might like to help. We plant in the morning and then stop about 1pm for a celebration of what we have achieved with pizzas and beers (gluten free of course)!

You said you like to get the community involved, who has helped you with planting days in the past?

Twice a year we have help from a couple of city schools. The children love to come out to the countryside and we try to give them a ‘farm experience’ at the same time – usually followed by a feed of pizza! We have had Venerdi staff and a local sports club also come and help as well as our own friends and family.

Can you tell us about the City To Farm process?

We work with the local “Hibiscus Coast Zero Carbon Trust’ who collect food scraps from some local restaurants, cafes, a fruit and vege shop, a fish shop, schools, kindergartens and a retirement village. The food scraps are stored in large wheelie bins while they ferment using the composting process known as Bokashi. We store the bins here at the farm and then after 3 weeks of fermentation they are tipped out. The bins get washed and prepared for recycling and the scraps are dropped into ‘swales’ (a shallow channel built on the contour) in the ground in front of the banana plants. This is then covered with a bark mulch. With the help of worms the food scraps eventually turn into nutrient rich soil which feeds the banana roots. We have named the whole process ‘City to Farm’ composting and have a website that tells people more about what we’re doing. See www.citytofarm.co.nz.

The aim is to keep city food scraps out of the landfill and use them to help produce a highly nutritious soil on which we grow crops. We then send the grown crops  back to the city, reducing the methane entering the atmosphere in the process. Bananas were chosen in the first instance because they are ‘luxury feeders’, and they require a great deal of nutrients from the soil.


What do you do with the grown bananas?

The swales also tend to grow a really good crop of self-sown pumpkins and tomatoes every year as well – which we bring to Venerdi HQ and give to the staff. 

To date, apart from producing enough bananas for our family, the bananas will only have their first real crop this year and we intend to sell them in the first instance at farm the gate. Any extras will come to work for the staff at Venerdi.

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