In the Garden with Papa Tom – A mission of sustainability

Tom Wichman, lovingly known as “Papa Tom”, is well known internationally for his work in Sustainability with the United Nations, and as a consultant to the Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture. During his years in the Cook Islands, he quickly learned that hydroponics would be beneficial to the island of Manihiki who’s soil was not suitable for planting because it was mainly sand and salt. Papa Tom set up their first hydroponic planting system. Bringing those learning’s to New Zealand, Papa Tom is now working towards establishing a hydroponics cooperative right here in the heart of Mangere.

 

Working alongside Papa Tom to build this hydroponics cooperative is 19 year old Raade Brown. Fresh out of high school and waiting to begin his Mission, Raade is Papa Tom’s youngest apprentice. “I’ve been with Papa Tom for a month now, and have learned so much from him… hydroponics is a modern way of planting that I’ve never seen before. Normally we grow things beneath the soil, but Papa Tom has been teaching me differently.”

Hydroponics is an easy way for families to grow food yearly. It requires a constant flow of nutrient filled water that circulates through several pipes, where the roots of the plant picks up those nutrients. Because the system doesn’t use soil, weeding is not required. It takes 3 – 4 weeks for plants to fully mature, and we are able to harvest from the same plant time and time again provided that the root system is still in place. There is minimal water and food waste, and it is easy for any family to manage.

Through Tom’s steady guidance, Raade has not only learned about hydroponics, but picked up some new skills. “I now have some basic building and gardening skills… I don’t do these things often, so it has been eye opening. After this I’ll be going on to serve a Mission, but in the mean time… I like where I am and what I’m doing. Not many young people get the opportunity do something amazing like this.”

oneBASKET Families – A Weekend of “Soul Food”

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Four Pacific families – Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoan, and Niuean came together to deliver a rich experience of authentic Pacific food for the Pacific Start-Up Weekend Auckland funded by Pacific Business Trust.

In 54 hours, attendees experienced the highs, lows, fun, and pressure that make up life as a startup. They also learned how to create a real company, have the opportunity to meet the very best mentors, investors, co-founders, and sponsors all equipped with the right tools to enable a successful startup.

With the oversight of a professional chef, CIDANZ oneBASKET families, who are startups themselves, provided a menu that took Pacific food to another level. Some of the traditional dishes they served was Takihi, from the island of Niue made from layered slices of pawpaw and taro, then layered in rich coconut cream. They also served Umu often served on Sunday’s in Samoa, filled with perfectly steamed chicken, lamb, pork, stuffing, and the essentials – kumara, potato, and pumpkin. They also served Cook Islands favorites – Mainese – pink potato salad, donuts, and rukau mamoe – taro leaf cooked in spices, coconut cream and lamb. From Tonga goers of the conference tasted the rich lu bites, a pacific twist on canape’s, made with taro cuts, taro leaf cooked in coconut milk, cooled, then folded through with cream cheese and dill. The mixture is then piped onto the taro cuts.

Families also tested new products, the MochAtiu Brownies infused with Atiu Coffee; and Maria’s Mini’s, a collection of Cook Islands treats in bite size.

In the lead up to the event, the families met to set the menu, and decide who was bringing what to the table.

In the end, the time, effort, and love that families put into this weekend was reflected in the faces of the attendees several who commented on how wonderful the meals were. Colart Miles, an organiser and facilitator of Start-Up Weekend Auckland, commented that “I have organised many of these events, but this is the first time we have had good food with lots of soul!”