Interview with Sarah Adams of Local Food Week

1 April 2013

August 2013 Update: Sarah is now working with the Wellington City Council to develop and support urban agriculture such as edible plantings, community gardens, local food social enterprises and more. If you're working on an a related initiative get in touch via


If you're involved in community projects, permaculture, gardening or food sustainability, then chances are you know Sarah Adams. She has set up, run or been an active part of some of the most notable organisations that are making things happen in our city, including Local Food Week. 

sarahSarah at Innermost Gardens

Growing Local

"I didn't know anything about gardening before" - a surprising statement from one of the most recognizable faces in Wellington community gardening.   Sarah's involvement with Innermost Gardens sprang instead from a contact in a community group, and in just a few years she has helped it flourish on a large piece of land in Mt Victoria.  It has become an inspirational community garden known around the city and encourages people by offering space, regular gardening days and workshops.

As Innermost grew, Sarah and the Sustainability Trust created the quarterly Rhizome Effect Hui to bring together an even wider group of “people who are passionate about community, local food and gardening" to share experiences and ideas.  In 2012 The Local Food Network was set up as the permanent body of this quarterly event and it provides on-going support to growers and consumers so local food can be easily found and enjoyed in Wellington.

2013 marks the inaugural Local Food Week run by the Network.  "Wellington on a Plate is a great event, but it's in the middle of Winter.  We wanted to create something to celebrate the local harvest".  This week is a chance to highlight what our region has to offer as Autumn begins, and there's plenty on to enjoy, learn from and be inspired by! 

P3231383Crops grow at the community garden in Mt Victoria

Permaculture: Design for Sustainability

Sarah's first tertiary training was in architecture and this design background grew with her interest in ecology and sustainability into an interest in permaculture.  Now this area is a large part of her work and she currently chairs the New Zealand Permaculture Council for the third year in a row and runs a permaculture course based.

Permaculture is a school of environmental and building design which has been active in New Zealand for 29 years.  Its practitioners create buildings, landscapes and gardens which are meticulously designed to be as self-sustaining as possible by utilising the connections between all elements.  The patterns (and therefore harmonies) of nature are key to this as the Earth already has endless examples of systems which self-regulate and flourish without any human intervention.  These natural patterns are integrated into design in many ways, such as placing mutually beneficial plants near one-another to encourage natural fertilization.

As well as the three month course, Sarah also shares her knowledge of these systems through her work at Innermost which is becoming a model permaculture garden.

Modern Living: Self-Sufficiency vs We-Sufficiency

Self-sufficiency is a dream of many people: living with the seasons, tending to hens and to gardens, and learning all of those practical things which most of us have forgotten over the last generation or two. 

Sarah has formed a group to promote a different philosophy, that of 'we-sufficiency'.  "The idea of the Good Life doesn't always work in the city, that's why we created the Our Abundance Project".  The Our Abundance Project is about people working together in so many ways, through the sharing of resources, surplus food, time, and skills to be able to "support all of our collective needs".  It is the idea of living as part of a self-supporting community rather than just a self-sufficient home. 

The project has been active since May 2012 and is celebrating with a harvest festival 13-14 of April.

Getting Involved in Local Food Week and Beyond...

  • Make an effort to support local food producers when you shop.  Here at Commonsense the majority of our fruit and vegetables are locally sourced and we have lots of fantastic goodies made in Wellington.  We love building relationships with our local growers and suppliers, not to mention seeing the fabulous food arriving from them!
  • Wellington boasts 27 community gardens, so as a first port of call check for one in your area.  If you're a Mt Victoria resident pop up to the top of Majoribanks St to Innermost Gardens, chat to Sarah and make use of their community compost bins!
  • Celebrate Autumn at the Our Abundance Project Harvest Festival April 13 and 14 at Tapu Te Ranga Marae.
  • Local Food Week runs until April 7 with a variety of activities and events including edible garden tours and pot lucks.  Check out the Local Food Network for on-going events, support and organisation for local food promotion in Wellington.

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