Off the Top of My HeadBy Paul Murray
In March 2012, Dave Tailby arrived in Karamea at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand to become the first LivinginPeace Project (LiPP) Permaculture Farm Manager.The LivinginPeace Project incorporates the elements of Art, Travel, Permaculture and Education into a sustainable business. The projects includes a backpackers hostel, motel complex, permaculture farm, art gallery, radio station, permaculture and art courses, a transport service, the Global Gypsy Gallery: a cafe, organic food and recycled clothing shop.
Already an accomplished organic gardener, builder and alternative energy specialist after spending his life living off the land and striving for energy efficiency and self-sufficiency, Dave did a Permaculture Design Course at the Permaculture Research Institute Zaytuna Farm in Australia with Geoff Lawton in 2011 on the suggestion of his father. He returned to New Zealand full of inspiration and keen to put the theoretical principles of permaculture he’d learned in to practice.
One goal of the LiPP is to apply permaculture principles to the business to maximise energy efficiency and minimise the environmental impact of the venture. Dave’s challenge was to develop the permaculture farm to produce enough fresh fruit, vegetables and meat to turn into meals to feed customers at the accommodation facilities all year round. The motivation for this was manifold. Locally produced food is significantly more energy efficient as there are no food miles or transport costs associated in getting it from the farm to the plate.
So rather than importing all the people as tourists and travellers and then importing all the food to feed them while they are staying with us, a great efficiency gain can be made by growing the food on our farm. The food quality is also higher as is it freshly harvested and soon on the table in front of our guests.
This approach is also a sound business idea as farm produce can be value added by converting it into meals and providing customers with a high quality meal at a reasonable price. This way enables the farmer to go direct to market without having wholesaler and retailer clipping the food price ticket along the supply chain. As a result, the LivinginPeace Project is able to produce top quality, locally grown meals for its customers at a price that doesn’t include the surcharges of the commercial supply chain.
For example, a farmer may be able to sell a pumpkin to a vegetable market for $3, the wholesaler then sells it to a retailer for $3.50, the retailer sells it to the restaurateur for $5 and the restaurant makes it into serves it up in to the customer for $10. The farmer provides the same pumpkin to the LiPP team, they make it into 10 bowls of pumpkin soup and serve it fresh to their customers for $5 per bowl and receive a $50 (less costs) return on the pumpkin. The proceeds of the pumpkin are used to directly pay the people producing the food and the meals. The customers are also happy as they have received a top quality, freshly harvested, nutritious, healthy, organic and delicious meal for half the price they’d pay for the same thing at a traditional restaurant.
(Actually, the same thing is not available at restaurants as the freshness is not possible due to the time it takes for the pumpkin to pass through the supply chain…at the LivinginPeace Project, we can serve soup from a pumpkin that was growing a few hours before)
In the summer of 2012, filmmakers Elise London and Louca Mee made a short film that captures well the essence of the LiPP. On the film, Dave reveals his creative garden design. It’s a giant flower, the beds are petals and they all radiate around the central disc, which he made into a peace sign, which is all very much in line with the central tenet of the LiPP. Back in 2012, the garden design was a paper concept, today it exists in reality and Dave, with the help of the LiPP crew, volunteers from all over the world, his partner Amanda and her kids Charlie and Naomi, Dave has taken a good idea and made it happen.
In addition to setting up the LiPP vegetable gardens, that will feed thousands of people over the coming years, Dave has also established hot-composting system that supplies the farm with a regular supply of nutritious living compost, a fruit forest to supply seasonal fruits all year round, a woodlot to produce firewood to heat buildings and water, designed a livestock husbandry system for the sheep flock, to built a pond for the ducks and conducted two Permaculture Design Courses to pass on his knowledge and experience to students from Canada, France, the United States, Japan, New Zealand and Germany and represented the LiPP at the Permaculture Convergence in Turangi and at the Nelson Eco-Fest in in 2012. He also conducted the first LiPP Permaculture Farm Internship in 2013. Intern Heather Andrews, a graduate from the 2013 LiPP Permaculture Design Course, had this to say about the internship.“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my 6 week internship at the LivingInPeace Project on all levels. Working with Dave has been one of the best work experiences I’ve had. He’s a fantastic teacher—a good communicator with heaps of knowledge and experience, a great sense of humour, a willingness to let you learn by doing, and that skill of all skills, the ability to improvise (aka Kiwi Ingenuity). He makes a workday FUN, which is as good as work gets, really! I got to learn about sheep care, safe chainsaw practices and maintenance, preparing and planting permaculture garden beds, making fast and slow compost, planting support species and young fruit trees, gathering kelp for use in fertilization, harvesting driftwood for firewood, using chickens as orchard conditioners and fertilizers, cobbing a rocket stove using homemade cob, and more. The cottage accommodation was absolutely lovely—quiet, surrounded by trees, comfortable and cosy. I loved harvesting vegetables and herbs from the garden to eat, and one of my favourite memories will be sharing meals with Dave and staff at Rongo’s. I am endlessly grateful to Dave, Paul, and all the staff at Rongo’s for this fantastic experience, it has been a highlight of my time in New Zealand and one I’ll treasure forever. Thank you, thank you!!!” Heather Andrews
7 July 2013
Dave’s warmth, compassion for others and great sense of humour made working on the farm a lot of fun. His passion for permaculture combined with his practical knowledge and experience and his Trojan work ethic saw the LiPP farm develop rapidly during his tenure as farm manager and we are very grateful for his dedicated effort.
Dave has left the LivinginPeace Project with a beautiful permaculture garden that will produce food for people coming to stay with us and helped to establish the project as a centre of excellence for permaculture learning and application. Dave will continue his permaculture journey from his home base in Motueka and will always be remembered as a driving force behind the permaculture facet of the LiPP. Thank you Dave from everyone you inspired, made laugh and shared your love with during your time at the LiPP…Happy Trails Old Mate!Paul Murray is the founder of the LivinginPeace Project, which was launched in 2003 and has taken flight with the help of hundreds of creative people from all over the world.