Getting to Know Angela Clifford

Getting to Know Angela Clifford

What’s your number one saying?

“Hey, I’ve been thinking, we should try……” (confirmation of this from my constantly exasperated family!)

Where are you based ? 

The Food Farm (, in the Waipara Valley, North Canterbury via South Australia. For all the photos, follow us on @TheFoodFarmNZ on Instagram (  We chose this area because of the proximity to the organic Greystone vineyard, which my husband Nick planted. We love the mediterranean climate; we get very little cold easterly, lots of Nor’Westers and late spring frosts are our biggest challenge.

What led you to permaculture?

We did our Permaculture Design Certificate at The Food Forest in Gawler, South Australia with the Brookmans and David Holmgren in 2005. The Brookies have been a huge influence on our thinking and lives (  Even though the climate and landscape are very different, the practice of Permaculture has made it easily translatable from a hot & dry to cooler & higher rainfall climate.

What is your profession/passion and who are the people you share this with?

I lead a not for profit national food collective, Eat New Zealand ( It’s made up of people across the whole food system; from farmers and fishers to food transformers, event organisers, educators, health professionals, hospitality and other experience providers. We hold the ‘FoodHui’ every year, looking at different aspects of our food system (will be in Otautahi/Christchurch on Sept 27th & 28th) and present Feast Matariki, our only national food celebration ( We also have a group of next generation food story-tellers, Kaitaki, and are doing everything from creating a Local Grain Economy for Aotearoa to pushing campaigns around #KnowYourFisher and #GrowFoodCommunities. 

Here on The Food Farm we also teach people how to grow their own food in a series or seasonal workshops. This is really important to us, a chance to be of service to our community through increasing resilience and sovereignty. Our whole family is involved and we co-present with our friend Michael Voumard (pictured below) who has a biodynamic property just north of us, Little Owl BD Farm.

How would your friends describe your sense of humour?

Ha! So difficult for me to ascertain. Definitely situational. Have some very funny friends, and have collected them like precious stones over the years.

What's your personal take on Permaculture in New Zealand? 

I can see the interest growing significantly, and those leading the way have lots of people watching what they do. I love that it was introduced to Aotearoa early on in the Permie timeline. I can see lots of wonderful divergent pathways and plenty of people practicing Permaculture, particularly in community design, without calling it that. In many ways I think Regenerative Agriculture is Permaculture on a bigger scale or on more traditional New Zealand farms. I would love to see more collectiveness within the community as a way of promoting solutions to the challenges we face. 

What lesson in life stands out the most for you?

How complex natural systems are and how little we know about them. Our constant response here on The Food Farm has been to increase biodiversity, and everytime we do it creates un-thought of outcomes (in a positive way). Just as we’re discovering the complexity of soil biology, all eco-systems seem beyond our imagination. Such arrogance to think we’re ‘in control’. If the current pandemic doesn’t show us that the smallest forms of life are much more powerful than us, I don’t know what will! Permaculture has really helped me to see all situations, ecosystems and communities as constellations. The intimacy of the connections is worthy of time to ponder. By affecting change in one place so many other things change. It gives me hope. It takes relatively few people to change culture in a positive (or negative) way. 

What changes would you like to see for permaculture in the future?

I would like to see more acknowledgement of the indigenous influence on Permaculture. It worries me that perhaps that hasn’t been appropriately referenced over the years. We farm on what was originally Ngai Tahu land, and those relationships are really important to me. I would like to see more pathways to co-design and equal participation. This is our work, and I think about it constantly. 

What question do you wish to ask those who are reading this?

Do you think about this also? What is your relationship with your local iwi or runanga? 

Also, how can Permaculture principles be applied to community design for you? This space, perhaps even more so than land design, has been the focus of my practice over the years. Essentially I’m mostly a community builder and I’ve used every Permaculture skill I possess to build those communities. I think communities with Permaculture design at their core will be the most resilient and useful moving forward.