The hidden organic oasis on our door step…. and it’s all about the soil.

In the sweltering heat on a Tuesday afternoon, with open eyes and investigative intrigue bubbling within, we ventured out to a little patch of Hawea heaven to meet one of our dedicated suppliers, Lorne Knight. Now many of you will know Lorne from his weekly appearance at the Wanaka Farmers market with Pirate Pickles. What many of you may not know, is that for the last 8 years, Lorne and his wife Cherilyn have been nurturing 10 acres of Haweas’ moraine soil to bring it to life. What started as a passion project many moons ago, is growing into one of our region’s best keep organic secrets.

As we arrive we can see the old and the new. The bare land, yet to be touched, which is hard, dry and unforgiving. In contrast, we see plots of earth that have been cultivated by hand and like an oasis in the desert yield a bounty of herbs and vegetables.

Lorne takes us for a stroll around his plots of abundance, each one a treasure chest of different edible varieties. We can’t help but ask, “How do you grow such a bounty from land that once was a river bed?”.

Soil + Water.

Despite the huge relevance of soil, the conditions of the available land on our planet are worrisome. More than half of the world’s agricultural land is moderately to severely degraded, with 12 million hectares lost each year. A very scary fact.

Now this is where appreciation for what Lorne is doing fills our hearts. Lorne has a philosophy of zero waste. One we should all do our best to truly embrace and something we practice religiously at ODE.

Lorne has applied this philosophy to every aspect of his business and it starts in the soil. Each plot that he as unearthed is replenished with his own handmade organic compost. The soil removed turned into berms that act as windbreaks around each plot.

Now, the compost is the most interesting bit. Lornes’ knowledge of nutrients is mind blowing and he has applied this to his zero waste philosophy. The ever growing mound of compost is fuelled by Wanaka’s local cafés and restaurants. Taking their compostable scraps and mixing them into his own melting pot of sawdust, pine needles and pony poo. Giving the compost a super boost is the addition of fish scrapes from Yohei and his own nitrogen feed from his worm farm.

Can we just remind you for a second that soil is a non-renewable resource, preserving it is essential to ensure we can grow food for years to come.

As we walk through with Lorne he shows us his bounty of organic herbs and vegetables, many grown from seed himself. Originally the gardens where intended to grow only enough to make their amazing chutneys and pickles. But through the nature of what they do they have more than enough to share. With plans in place to have their own bore on the property, they will soon be able to draw their own water brining the project on even further.

We wander through his plots to find flourishing pumpkins, bramberry apples, courgette, potatoes, okra, rhubarb, cucumbers, gherkins, tomato’s, eggplant, coriander, Mekong Red amaranth, which is stunning in salads can be left to seed, chilli’s, basil and garlic.

We are in awe of his beautiful and enormous globe artichokes, which if not used he lets go to flower and delivers them to Rachel at The Green Room to use in her floral creations.

We pull out a fugly telegraph cucumber. Not like the ones you see in the super market. Oh no. This one is a little fatty. So why are the ones in the super market so long, narrow and perfect? Well, they are grown in plastic cylinders of course. Cucumber grown in plastic. Oh and sold in plastic. Hmmmm. Thoughts?

Many of these herbs and vegetables are destined for your plate at ODE. What started as production for Pirate Pickles is now growing to supply others. On a small scale, but one that is of epic quality.

Hearing all this will hopefully make you question about where, how and in what quality soil the vegetables you purchase are grown. Do you truly know where your food comes from? We are proud to be able to tell you where every element on your plate at ODE comes from.

Lorne and Cherilyn have some incredible plans for their property at Hawea. With developers knocking on their doorstep they are holding strong with their own vision, with provisions underway for botanical camping, amphitheater and a berry maze.

Urban growth and development is placing more and more pressure on our non-renewable resources like our soil. It is people like Lorne and Cherilyn that are the caretakers of our future.

We salute them, and are proud to support them at ODE.  

A little more….

  • Fun fact about Lorne and Cherilyn: They don’t eat raw tomato’s

  • What did you have for breakfast this morning: Fruit and Vege Smoothie (it is 2.30pm in the afternoon and he has not had lunch yet!)

  • What features regularly on your dinner plate: Baked Beans, Roasted Garlic and Blue Cheese on Toast, Chickpea Curry and Cauliflower Cheese

  • Biggest challenges in your Business: Wind, Water and Soil

  • Business Philosophy: Growing produce and making products the way our grandparents used to. If we can’t grow it ourselves, we source it locally.

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Lucas Parkinson