Nestled in the beautiful countryside of South Wairarapa sits Cameron Family Farms, an extensive organic farming operation set up by Filmmaker James Cameron and Author Suzy Cameron, both keen environmental advocates. Their growing principles are directed by their values - ethical, organic, sustainable plant-based farming and they’re constantly working hard to find better ways of farming - to benefit people’s health, the land and rivers.
I sat down with Cameron Family Farm’s New Zealand managers, Chris and Maxine at Food Forest Organics, their flagship store and café in Greytown, Wairarapa for a bite to eat and to find out more about these pioneering suppliers of ours.
What are the key drivers for Cameron Family Farms as a business?
It’s always about our values. For us in particular, it’s always about looking after the soil health and minimising compaction. We only use organic fertilisers and we make our own compost.
James wants to change the way we use the land and encourage other farmers to do the same. He knows that the average farmer can’t afford to do a lot of the experimental stuff that we’re doing so he’s willing to make the investment and share with other farmers what works and what doesn’t. So then we are able to show farmers that there are other ways of using the land profitably that are good for the land and good for the soil. The Camerons hold their values in high regard, and they’re willing to try many new things if it means we might find a better way of farming organically and sustainably. It’s amazing to be in that sort of environment.
A big part of the business is directed towards teaching others about what we are trying to achieve. We’re planning to run a field day for Iwi and local farmers to share with them what we’re doing . Alongside this, Suzy’s son, Jasper intends to develop permaculture courses and sessions designed to teach participants how to live gently on the planet.
How has the reception been from other farmers in the area?
We’re challenging the norm for pastoral farming and farmers have been really interested in what we’re doing and wanting to understand it. Many farmers are looking at the environment and climate change and they’re not wanting to contribute to the negative environmental outcomes that can come with some types of farming. Farming organically isn’t necessarily easy but it’s very rewarding – we are growing great vegetables and our soil health is improving every year.
You’re a plant based business, is that something you’ve taken on personally?
We’re aren’t entirely plant-based eaters, but we are moving in that direction, quicker than we had ever thought possible! James and Suzy Cameron are plant-based and believe it’s the most effective way to lessen our impact on the environment, while improving our own health.
Of course, there’s no doubt that vegetables are good for you, but with the majority of our diet being plant based, we feel sharper, our brains feel clearer, we feel great. And we don’t feel that cuisine-wise you’re limited in any way. The whole plant based and vegan lifestyle is growing hugely, you only have to look in the media to see it’s not just some flash in the pan, it’s here to stay.
Alongside fresh produce, what else will you be bringing to our customers?
A couple of years ago, we acquired a mature walnut grove which is in organic conversion, and we also crop hemp and flaxseed which we harvest and sell. We're producing beautiful olive, flaxseed, hemp and walnut oils. We’ve also branched out into cosmetics and have released a range of natural lip balms, bath salts and soaps. Our cosmetics are all handmade in small batches with the most beautiful natural ingredients - our own honey, beeswax and herbs and with as little packaging as possible. We’re really proud of them!
We are connected to the vision of Cameron Family Farms and we feel privileged to be stocking their wide range of products. We applaud their efforts to find ways of farming which ultimately keep our lands and waterways in the best possible condition, and hopefully, even better than they found them.
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