PERMACULTURE PRACTITIONER & ORGANIC CONSULTANT
GOLDEN BAY - SOL MORGAN
Began his Sole Trader business ‘Growise Consultancy’ in 2007 when he left his job as the Co-ordinator at Golden Bay Community Garden. The overarching aim of Growise Consultancy to provide education and advice ‘to help people to help themselves’ to become food self-sufficient. An aspect of this is developing the skills to maintain their own properties along permaculture lines. People who have the finances but decide they don’t have the time or skills, commonly employ Sol to do maintenance work such as pruning and gardening. Sol works with suburban-scale properties, ‘lifestyle’ blocks, and farms – from commercial to private household purposes.
Differently, from most land-use development businesses, he is committed to guiding his clients to reach their long-term goals, offers ongoing mentoring and support. He prefers to physically work alongside people in their vegetable gardens and orchards with learning, productivity and relationship building happening all at the same time. Ali Palfy’s place is a good example. Sol did a permaculture design for this steep clay-soil property and brought in a digger to carve this design into the landscape, with a focus on creating distinct land use zones as well as storing water and moving it through the landscape. Then Sol and Aly cleared and fenced off animal pasture areas, planted native forest groves and pockets of mixed species timber trees as well as nut trees (emphasis on chestnuts), established temperate and subtropical orchards and created terraced vegetable gardens, set up irrigation systems and selected appropriate animal breeds. Sol until recently worked one day per week with Aly, mostly maintaining the 500 sq mtr veggie garden, winter pruning the orchard amongst the ducks and chickens, weed-eating and making compost.
Sol has a BHort Sc (Hons) specialising in Biological Husbandry, mentored by Bob Crowder. For the required work experience for the Degree Sol worked in his holidays, for DSIR doing tree nutrient analysis. And then after qualifying he helped establish seed gardens for Koanga Gardens with Kaye Baxter in Kaiwaka.
Before starting Growise Consultancy, Sol was the coordinator of Waimarama Community Gardens in Nelson, and the Golden Bay Community Gardens run by the Te Wharerangi Trust, of which he is now the chairperson. There he had a range of roles, including as the Production Manager, growing $40,000 worth of veggies per year for local consumption.
Sol is passionate about healthy soils = “if you get the soil right, you can grow anything well”. His consultancy work typically involves taking and testing soil samples, then providing tailor-made soil improvement recommendations based on the results which come back from the Albrich Lab in the USA. To do this he works together with Solly’s (Golden Bay’s soil mineralisation company) consultant Ross Wright, who has a commitment to Biological Farming.
Sol was funded by the District Health Board’s past Nutrition & Physical Activities scheme to provide hands-on teaching with the more disadvantaged families in Golden Bay to
Since 2005, Sol has been writing a monthly ‘column called Down to Earth’, on seasonally topical aspects of gardening and environmental matters, for the Golden Bay Weekly.
For the past 3 years, Sol has masterminded ‘Sustainable Golden Bay’, a forum-festival style educational event, which showcases a diversity of exemplary land-based initiatives within the area, commonly drawing a broad audience including conventional farmers into the Community Gardens.
Sustainable Living Course, which is effectively an extended Permaculture Course, where people learn from experienced practitioners in the community who are living this. Sol is on the course’s development team and will be its organic growing tutor.
One day a week, Sol ventures to Motupipi Primary School, where he has been working for the past 10 years using the Enviro-schools 'student-led’ approach to teach their school gardening program, where every child in the school experiences the fulfillment of food growing. Funding from WWF’s ‘Environmental Education Action Fund’, together with a local trust, enabled this to get going.
Every spring at the Community Gardens, Sol plants up the main seed garden for Golden Bay Seedsavers and runs local group’s annual seed swap. Locally adapted seeds are exchanged within the group and also sold at the local organic shop under their label. Golden Bay Seed Savers features in the film ‘S.O.S. – Save Our Seeds’, produced by the Localising Food Project.
Sol’s family is committed to eating seasonally and locally. His family of four lives on a ‘quarter acre section’ in Takaka township, where they have 50 fruit trees, a 50 sq mtr veggie garden, compost area, chook run, greenhouse, shade house, sleepout, garage, children playing area, (also used for seed storage) - and of course a house!
As this veggie garden is insufficient to produce the majority of the family’s food needs (research is 500 sq mtrs), Sol and some friends ‘lease’ (in exchange for vegetables) of land they call ‘Fertile Ground’, from a local farmer to produce all the staple crops they need, and some to give away or sell locally (eg garlic). This enables the 6 household co-operative to produce their year-round veggie needs, as well as socialise together regularly. It just takes one morning per week (which includes a generous tea break) of their combined labour, using organic methods, to produce this abundance (see picture below, multiple stacks, the box sits in front of one portion). Each household pays in $15 per month to cover expenditure eg new cloches, some seed/seedlings, manure, and hay cutting.
SEE ARTICLE IN ‘ORGANIC GROWING’ MAGAZINE, by Rebecca Reider (Issue Nov/Dec 2016)
Alternative economic thinking pervades Sol’s activities. Now he is well established, these days his philosophy is ‘charge the rich well, and subsidise the poor within the community’. This takes the form of trading with those who have less eg accepting Golden Bay’s local currency HANDS ( stands for How About No Dollar System) and other resources such as preserves, firewood, labour exchange. Even the house live in is occupied under a win-win ‘Rent to Own’ legally binding arrangement with their landlord.
Finishing with two quotes from Sol:
“I love my work and feel blessed I can live my passion. As I am my own boss, I can just go fishing out when I've had enough!.”
“Food is a primary need. People are getting wiser about the importance of their own health and environmental health. They are waking up to the difference between source-unknown crap supermarket food and tasty organically-grown quality food. Growing a garden is an attractive proposition nowadays and there is an increasing need for permaculture designers and organic practitioners”.
After reading this, if you dream of creating a similar kind of livelihood, here are some of Sol’s tips:
Become involved in some kind of local food group (or start one)
Become part of a local Community Garden (or start one)
Ask around about landowners who may have insufficient energy to do maintenance
Do a Permaculture Design Course and join PiNZ
Come to Golden Bay and do the Sustainable Living Course
Sol is also willing to talk personally with people who are serious about creating a permaculture-based livelihood. Growise Consultant
SOL’S SEASONAL CALENDAR
LIVELIHOOD MINDMAP: SOL MORGAN, GOLDEN BAY
‘Growise’ Consultancy – design & manual work
Te Wharerangi Trust - Chairperson
Educator in Organic Growing & Permaculture
Public Events Speaker
Sustainability Events Co-organiser
‘Sustainable Living Course’ Developer & Tutor
School Gardening Programme Teacher
‘Golden Bay Seedsavers’ Coordinator & Seed Grower
Father & Household Co-Gardener
‘Fertile Ground’ Co-op – Active Member & Adviser
HANDS (alternative currency) – Active Member