Digging in the dirt

Kaitlyn Lamb With Te Rangikaheke Of Kai Rotorua
Kaitlyn Lamb With Te Rangikaheke Of Kai Rotorua

Digging in the dirt, I feel something solid and know it’s gonna be a beauty. A kumara. Not the biggest kumara which Kai Rotorua has grown which weighed 4.25kg, but will be delicious all the same.

You’ve probably bought kumara before from a supermarket. Probably weighed about 500g. And you’ve probably never thought about where that kumara has come from. Like how it was grown and by whom. Yet we grumble all the same about the price.

Knowing where your food comes from and who grew it changes the way in which we view what we’re eating. Which is why in our modern society this is so important, because we’re so busy that sometimes we forget humans grew this food. And more importantly that our food comes from Papatuanuku.

Recently I interviewed Te Rangikaheke (the founder) from Kai Rotorua which is a non for profit organization, whose mission is ‘to reconnect people with Papatuanuku through kai.”

Growing kumara is one of the best things that Kai Rotorua grows. It’s sweet, organic and will be the best kumara you have ever tried! Plus, you know where it has come from; Te Puea Orchard. Not only is this kumara so delicious, but as mentioned earlier they are humongous!

Kai Rotorua follows the Maramataka calendar which is one of the reasons why their kumara is so big. The maramataka gives a sense of when to grow at the right time, and the right amount of moisture content in which the kumara should have.

Te Rangikaheke will agree with me when I say we have lost our connection to Papatuanuku. Which is why the goal of Kai Rotorua is to reconnect people back to our Earth Mother.

Have you ever planted kumara? Or more importantly do you know when and how to grow it? This is one of the ways in which Kai Rotorua connects people back to Papatuanuku. They teach people of all ages how to plant & grow kumara. This is especially important in Rotorua as lots of our fruit and vegetables are imported by trucks. But what will happen when these trucks stop coming?

Feast Matariki according to Te Rangikaheke (arguably) hasn’t yet developed its full potential here in Rotorua. However, this doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate our food. Another way in which Kai Rotorua reconnects people back to Papatuanuku is through hangi, sharing the food with others, as well as acknowledging manaakitanga. These were recently shown at the Sunday Farmers Market where kumara stars were made and cooked to celebrate Matariki, as well as celebrating the fantastic kumara which Kai Rotorua grows. A special thanks to Te Rangikaheke who gave up his time to help me with this project.

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Words by Kaitaki Collective member Kaitlyn Lamb who is just 16 years old. @kaitlyngrowz. Environmentalist & Sustainability Eco Warrior.

I am extremely passionate about caring for our environment and growing sustainable food. I run two youth environmental groups in Rotorua which allow people to have a connection with nature: Forest & Bird Youth @forestandbirdyouth and Eco Warriors Rotorua @ecowarriors_rotorua. I’ve recently been learning about growing my own food and believe this, as well as learning to cook healthy food are hugely important life skills. Also it’s really fun watching your seeds grow into plants which you then get to eat! Recently I have been writing many stories in regards to single-use plastic and I love writing about these types of environmental issues and topics. I plan to share my stories on Instagram @kaitlyngrowz & Facebook.

Words by eatnewzealand