When Helensville local Mark Dennis set up a community fruit and vege stand outside his Puriri St home at the beginning of 2018 he had no idea that by the end of the year he would be given the prestigious title of NZ Gardener of the Year. The award, given by NZ’s oldest gardening magazine and decided by popular vote, annually recognises our ‘horticultural superheroes’. It’s a sign of the times that a project aimed at preventing food waste and enabling people to share their excess was the most popular of all the initiatives in the 2018 final. Mark is delighted with his win, especially because it reflects the fact that the idea spreading so fast - there are now more than 150 free fruit and vegetable stands from Kaitaia to Invercargill – is evidence of people looking to share and connect with others in their communities.
In supporting this grassroots movement Mark’s Facebook page, Community Fruit and Vege Stands, is an invaluable place for people to share thoughts and advice about how to set up and maintain a stand and to let people know what a stand currently has on offer. Posts such as “Kiwi fruit, plums, kale, broadbeans, rhubarb and a pumpkin available at the stand tonight as of 6.30pm. Lyttelton Street, Spreydon, Chch”, “Our Parakai stand has had a revamp and been moved to 6 Fordyce Road” and “I manage the stand in Piopio, a small rural community in the King Country. It’s been a huge commitment of time and effort but incredibly fun and rewarding. It’s been great to see the community participate and take ownership, both in sharing and enjoying the surplus”, are a great reflection of what the project is all about.
Good on you Mark!