Tag Archives: featured

Using Kunekune Pigs in Land Management

Editor’s Note: This appeared in the Whanganui Chronicle on the 13th of January, 2020.

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 2.03.31 pm

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

I wrote about George Orwell’s recognizable Animal Farm quote six months ago in a Conservation Comment focusing on my observations of the gradual erosion of the ‘social contract’ as more and more people seem to take an attitude of “those rules don’t apply to me.” Parking on the verge during school pick-up appears to be a common expression of this form of self-applied superiority, and the bigger one’s ute the more likely we are to find it’s driver applying this form of DIY VIP parking.

But this month I mean it literally – some animals are more equal than others. In the eyes of the law certain animals are provided many rights and protections while others provided few.

Fair enough – after all some animals are critically endangered and others are considered pests. We spend millions trying to save some from extinction and millions trying to eradicate others.

Among livestock, the rules are generally the same but with notable exceptions. Take the WDC Keeping of Animals, Poultry and Bees Bylaw 2015. The bylaw takes particular exception of pigs, requiring they don’t come “Within 50 metres of an adjoining Premises boundary in all areas within the District.”

Pigs! Why is it always pigs? Pigs are smart and clean animals, yet we always hear, “This place is a pig sty!” Barack Obama famously said, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig,” which Republicans claimed was directed at then vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 12.17.48 pm

I don’t know the origin of the bylaw but assume it dates to a time of poor animal management and/or unregulated hog farms. Times change, and like many outdated policies we encounter a review is welcome. The WDC Bylaw is up for review, which provides an opportunity to consider a pig ‘of a different colour’.

Taking a fresh perspective on land and management it’s easy to see that one porker rises above the rest. Yes, there actually is a pig “more equal than others”, with a name so nice you have to say it twice.

According to The New Zealand Kunekune Association, “The name Kunekune means ‘fat and round’ in Maori. The Kunekune is a unique New Zealand breed of pig. The general consensus is that the Kunekune were probably brought to New Zealand in the 1800’s by whalers operating in New Zealand waters, and were traded with the Maoris. In the late 1970’s the breed was ‘rediscovered’ and at that time it was estimated that there were only about 50 purebred Kunekunes left in New Zealand. From purebred base stock of only 6 sows and 3 boars in 1978, the Kunekune now numbers in the thousands. It is due to the enthusiasm and dedication of people… that the breed was saved from extinction.”

While it’s important to preserve rare breeds for their genetic diversity, the kunekune can also play an important role in holistic land management, regenerative agriculture, bush restoration and even combatting climate change. Yes, you read that correctly.

I first read about the use of kunekunes as a management tool at Yealands Winery about six years ago. We first employed them on our farm four years ago.

Their unique value in land management is that, unlike sheep, cows and goats, they eat grass but not trees, shrubs, vines or flax. As with Yealands, we employ kunekunes primarily as ‘workers’, although we also eat them. As part of our holistic approach to regenerative agriculture we have engaged them to manage grass and weeds in our mixed fruit orchard; around olive trees on a hillside; in an avocado orchard; and around native plantings used for stream corridor restoration.

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 12.16.26 pm

During the last five years we’ve planted 3,000 trees on our permaculture farm as we strive to grow more food on the land while simultaneously sequestering more carbon, reducing more erosion, and virtually eliminating Nitrogen pollution into Purua Stream. This type of win-win-win situation is known broadly as ‘ecological design’ where the aim is to work with nature instead of working against it.

The results on our farm have been profound in just five years, and we certainly advocate the use of holistic design that incorporates animals alongside perennial plantings to provide the opportunities for the land to ‘punch above its weight.’

Where kunekunes may be of most use in our District, however, is on the smaller lifestyle blocks where residents may be planting natives and/or fruit trees. Weeding is important in both cases and engaging these friendly grazers could help avoid the use of chemical weed killers, time-consuming hand-weeding, or expensive mulching. But, as you can imagine, on a one-hectare lifestyle block there is not much land that is more than 50 metres from any boundary, which essentially outlaws the use of this important management tool for growing more trees on these properties, which would help the District address climate change on many levels.

In my experience with kunekunes, when managed well they do not create mud wallows, attract flies, or make much noise, while producing less odour than some sheep and far less than a male goat.

A review of the bylaw is not only an opportunity to reconsider this unique breed and what it can provide us beyond simply meat, but also to think more holistically about the interface between plants, animals and legislation to make sure they are working with each other instead of against each other.

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 12.16.06 pm

Nelson Lebo manages Kaitiaki Farm in Okoia, where a Master Class on Holistic Land Management will be held 23rd April. theecoschool@gmail.com

RetroSuburbia Book & Property Tour

Join the RetroSuburbia Movement!

We will be hosting an on site RetroSuburbia Workshop and Property Tour following the PINZ National Hui: 27th April, 2020, 2:00 – 5:00 PM.

Screen Shot 2019-12-04 at 5.49.33 am

Our Whanganui property is the only case study outside of Australia to be included: https://retrosuburbia.com/case-studies/eco-thrifty-retrofit-case-study/

ANZAC Day (Observed, Monday) 27th April, 2020, 2:00 – 5:00 PM. $35 p/p, $55 couples.

Space is limited.

Registration essential: theecoschool@gmail.com

Screen Shot 2019-12-04 at 6.23.25 amScreen Shot 2019-12-04 at 6.22.50 am

The book: $89 NZD plus post ($8 plus $3.90 for rural address).

Pick up available in Palmerston North and Whanganui.

To Place Orders: theecoschool@gmail.com

 

4-Dimensional Design: Master Class

On our farm it takes a month to cut down a tree, six months to build a garden bed, and two years to plant avocados. That’s how we get more done with less effort.

Screen Shot 2019-12-05 at 6.29.52 am

Before and After

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 9.31.23 am

Building Beds

Time is the 4th dimension, and using it to our advantage saves effort, money, and fossil fuels while establishing and operating highly efficient and regenerative systems. Designing in 4 dimensions maximizes the value of available resources and minimizes waste as well as the need for heavy equipment and a fat wallet. It’s working smarter instead of harder.

4-Dimensional design thinking is the ‘next step’ that many permaculturists may be waiting for. We have dozens of examples to share during this Master Class.

Screen Shot 2019-12-05 at 6.30.44 am

 

Screen Shot 2019-12-05 at 6.31.27 amScreen Shot 2019-12-05 at 6.32.54 am

In five years we have transformed a worn-out horse property into a fully integrated permaculture farm on a shoestring budget and essentially without the burning of fossil fuels. We engage a regenerative approach to food production on 5.1 hectares on the outskirts of Whanganui. The farm provides excellent examples of permaculture Zones 1 through 5.

Before & After 4

The programme includes: water management; soil enhancement; wind protection; bush restoration; animal management (chicken tractors, browsing goats, grazing kunekune pigs); annual gardening; successional planning; integrating systems; off-farm inputs and outputs; and more…

4-Dimensional Design: Master Class

23rd April, 2020. 1 pm to 5:30 pm. Afternoon tea included. $55 p/p, $85 couples.

Kaitiaki Farm, Whanganui

Dinner and overnight accommodation available before the PINZ Annual Hui.

Register: theecoschool@gmail.com

 

Support Stream Restoration

Filled with inspiring images that can change the way you see the world, with practical examples of each permaculture design principle over the course of a month. Daily icons are reminders for garden activities that take advantage of the lunar cycles, supporting regular planting routines. The annual rainfall chart is a handy way to keep a weather record or an eye on events over the year.

Ethically produced using post-consumer recycled paper printed with vegetable based inks. Internationally relevant and filled with thought provoking images that support and reinforce your values every day of the year.

100% of profits go to charitable permaculture projects

$16.90 Post paid / 2 for $30

Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 5.57.44 am

Orders:  TheECOSchool@gmail.com

Permaculture Internship: Paying-It-Forward

Interns come to Kaitiaki Farm for 8 weeks at a time to earn a Permaculture Design Certificate. That’s not long enough to grow anything from seed to plate except radishes or maybe salad greens depending on the time of year. As a result, we’ve developed a form of ‘paying-it-forward’ from one group to the next in the annual garden, or even from season to season by making and freezing pesto or broad bean falafal or sliced peaches, loquats and feijoas.

One group plants tomatoes that they will never eat, but enjoys crown pumpkin, spaghetti squash, dried chilis, and dehydrated apples grown and prepared by other interns months earlier.

The most recent group has been able to experience much of the best aspects of harvest season and their work in the annual gardens has been relatively light. But instead they’ve been planting natives along the stream, helping put up firewood, and transitioning the beds to winter crops such as broad beans, brassicas and garlic. They have even helped organise and run a Curtain Bank for the Whanganui community, to help low-income families keep their homes warmer during the coming winter months.

Previous groups have helped with drainage on the land, built animal shelters and chicken tractors, and planted poplar poles, avocados, olives, and around 2,000 native plants. Each group makes compost that will be used by future groups and raises ducklings or chicks that they won’t see as full grown.

Paying-it-forward on Kaitiaki Farm may serve as an example of what is sorely lacking in much of the rest of contemporary human society. Instead of paying-it-forward we see rampant stealing from future generations in terms of biodiversity, climate, and financial debt.

Even during an 8-week permaculture internship one can only learn so much. So instead of trying to ‘teach’ heaps of ‘stuff’ we take the approach of helping to develop a more holistic vision and four-dimensional design thinking skills. As our interns plant vegetable seeds in the gardens and native seeds in pots in the nursery, as instructors we’re planting seeds of the ethical approach to ecological design that is permaculture. Once interns leave the farm we rely on them to spread out across the planet and pay-it-forward in communities worldwide. We need to make sure they are well nourished for such a weighty job.

Peace, Estwing

Kaitiaki Farm Work Study PDC Internship

 

Earn your Permaculture Design Certificate while working on a premier permaculture demonstration farm in New Zealand.

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-1-41-24-pm

Our work study internship programme is unique in the world of permaculture education in that it combines best practice teaching and learning with best practice regenerative land management.

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-1-57-35-pm

The programme balances content, process and reflection, while nurturing systems thinking skills. It’s about developing a way of thinking that recognizes the connections between diverse elements on the farm and how they interact in four dimensions (over time), along with the hands-on skills required to work effectively with cultivated ecologies.

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-1-40-47-pm

Kaitiaki Farm is an exemplar permaculture property that is blessed with a diverse array of microclimates and growing conditions. The 5.1 hectare (13 acre) property is located 4 km outside of Whanganui with a population of 43,000.

Along with holistic land management we also embrace appropriate technology, renewable energy and human-scale solutions.

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-1-35-47-pm

Many of our interns come with low or no rural skills. Motivation, a love of learning, and a strong work ethic are the most important elements for success at Kaitiaki.

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-1-39-40-pm

We spend a lot of time teaching and talking. This slows down our work but makes the internship what it is – an endless series of ‘teachable moments’. It is also the best way to earn a PDC. This type of learning experience is extremely rare anywhere in the world and would not come from a book or standard PDC course. That said, we have a huge library of great books and lots of connections locally and nationwide of practicing permaculturists.

Interns work three-ish full-ish days and two half days per week, with two days off.

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-1-34-21-pm

More details here: http://www.theecoschool.net/workstudy-permaculture-design-certificate.html

The ECO School

Whanganui, New Zealand

 

Inquiries: theecoschool at gmail dot com

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-1-34-54-pm