Gardening for a cause: The dirt on cultivate Christchurch

“A plant will always strive to be the best version of itself. Your role as a gardener is to create the conditions that allow that to happen.”- Bailey Perryman

Whether you nurture a pint-sized patio garden, own a quarter acre block or have the luxury of a rural property, it’s no secret that gardening is good for the soul. Now, a pair of Kiwis has taken this concept one step further and set up Cultivate Christchurch, an inspiring social project that encourages young people to “live lives they value in an urban farm setting”.

After both receiving “World of Difference” grants from the Vodafone Foundation, youth worker Fiona Heargraves and trained ecologist Bailey Perryman found that they shared common ground. After throwing ideas around at a local café, Cultivate Christchurch was born.

A social movement that’s not afraid to get its hands dirty

Located on the corner of Peterborough and Manchester streets, the lush urban farm is now a sanctuary for at-risk youth. In a nutshell, “Cultivate is on a mission to inspire and engage young people who are not currently in education, employment or training. We do it outdoors – with our hands in the dirt.”

As well as growing produce, the farm sells fruit, vegetables and herbs to local restaurants. It also provides an organic waste removal service, which is then converted back into compost. Leftover crops are donated to City Mission, shared at a weekly community lunch or simply enjoyed by volunteers. As well as getting their hands dirty in the garden, young volunteers are encouraged to engage with restaurant staff, chat to visitors and learn the ins and outs of running a business. The goal is to build confidence, arm them with translatable workplace skills and of course, promote the therapeutic benefits of gardening.

“We’re not working with them in isolation,” explains Fiona. “We’re supporting them to have connections with other people in the community as well as giving them opportunities to engage with the land.”

The power of planting a seed

While gardening itself is a relatively simple concept, but Bailey maintains that the act of planting a seed and watching it grow can be incredibly profound.

“When you are interacting with living systems, the same processes are reflected back within ourselves. You learn to understand what nourishes you at the most fundamental level – your soul. You learn what inspires you and what makes you feel healthy and alive,” he explains.

Just like seeds, Cultivate Christchurch provides volunteers with a safe and nurturing space to emerge out of their shells, build strength and eventually thrive.

Want to find out more about the incredible work going on at Cultivate Christchurch? Why not attend one of the open days for a hand-on glimpse at what makes the gardens grow.