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  • Writer's pictureTomtit Farm

Farming Biodiversity

The humble tomato, is a summer favourite in Aotearoa and a great example of farming biodiversity. We celebrate and grow tomatoes of all shapes, sizes, heritage, heirlooms and colours. In fact, we grow over 40 different varieties of tomatoes over the summer in our little half acre farm. We grow this many varieties because each type has its own unique profile and plays a very important part in the overall biodiversity of our farm. We also have the privilege to make these somewhat forgotten varieties available for our community to nourish their whānau. Our biodiversity story doesn’t stop there on our little patch of land. Growing underneath our tomato plants you can find dwarf beans, nestled next to six varieties of basil, with big crispy lettuce heads, happily growing amongst the flowing alyssum and marigolds. In fact, you won't find a patch of bare soil on our farm. We have carefully crafted an abundance of plant life growing in harmony in a biodiverse environment that we call Tomtit Farm. Our plant diversity attracts very important insects which play their role as pollinators and predators in a natural ecosystem that keeps everything alive and healthy. We call this polycropping, each bed on our farm is made up of a combination of multiple species of plants that grow together that symbiotically enhance the performance of the plants within the same soil area, mimicking natural ecosystems. This thriving ecosystem does not need endless inputs (fertilisers) to succeed. We like to think of the native bush as showing us what can exist in a natural environment.

Plant health is therefore directly related to soil health. Soil health is directly related to soil life diversity, which is directly related to the diversity growing above the soil.

This is the same with human health, human health is directly related to plant health. Therefore, healthy diversity in our soils = healthy living soils = healthy living plants = healthy food = healthy people = healthy communities = healthy Aotearoa.

And the key ingredient to all of this is biodiversity in all aspects of life, creating a happy functioning ecosystem that looks after and nourishes the people of Aotearoa.

What can you do to help?

It’s pretty simple, celebrate good food and lots of it!

  1. Try a different variety of cheese, tomato, apple to celebrate the foods that have been forgotten.

  2. Eat seasonally, eat locally.

  3. Learn about where your food comes from and how it came to you.

  4. Celebrate your local growers, bakers, butchers, foragers, hunters, brewers, fishermen, chefs and producers. Especially the ones who are helping to preserve diverse foods in your area.

  5. Try new foods from grains to legumes to simple vegetables like kohlrabi (have you tried kohlrabi before?)

  6. Learn about seeds and seed saving, we need to save the seeds from the plants and foods we enjoy the most and that we want to be around for our grandchildren to experience too.

Now, enjoy that slice of humble heirloom tomato on toast and think to yourself for a second or two about the very complex ecosystem that supports this piece of culinary art in front of you. From the soil living biology to the farmers who have carefully saved the seed from these crops year after year. Appreciate how important it is for us to celebrate and protect our food diversity for a healthy functioning world.

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