‘Treat the earth with such respect’: Healthy earth makes vegan farmer happy

‘treat-the-earth-with-such-respect’:-healthy-earth-makes-vegan-farmer-happy
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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Sharing produce and growing know-how is at the core of Vanya Maw’s farming philosophy. She’s been running Wyenova Organics in Canterbury since 1992 and proudly farms just about anything that’s edible.

Vanya and her husband Ivan bought the 50 hectare property in 1985. Prior to that they had a sheep and cropping farm near Methven.

Going organic was something she’d always wanted to do on a large scale.

“I was always organic in my garden and always grew my own food and my Dad, he put nothing (chemical) on his gardens and I didn’t want that,” she says.

After several years every paddock on the farm had achieved bio-grow certification.

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

An opportunity came along to grow for Wattie’s in Christchurch.

“I was really over the moon,” she says. “There were peas, beans, buckwheat, lentils, corn, just so much grown for Watties but this ended when they moved their frozen organic plant up to the North Island.”

Since then Vanya has been supplying the local market with her organic vegetables, fruit and nuts.

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

She runs some self-shedding Wiltshire sheep as well.  They keep the grass down and lead a pretty good life.

“My other sheep…they died, but some of them were over 22 years old…they never had a single drench and they were amazingly healthy!”

At one end of the fertile property a once bare paddock has been turned into a thriving native reserve. Vanya has been developing it for nearly 20 years.

She planted the first cabbage tree in 2004.

“I used to get the two dollar specials from the nursery down the road on the way home from the market, so most of the trees are two dollar ones!”

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

A biological farming system is at work in the orchards and vegetable gardens to encourage the microbial life needed for soil fertility.

Insects thrive in built-up composting mounds around of the trunks of all the fruit and nut trees.

“The piles of wood slowly break down and supply a beautiful home to lizards, skinks, earwigs, slaters and beetles,” she says.

Vanya shares what she grows with an open heart. Everyone who visits Wyenova Farm goes home with an arm full of freshly harvested produce.   

She also sends seeds and cuttings from her heritage trees to keen growers around the country.

“I live in heaven/paradise” she says. “You know what we do to the earth we do to ourselves, so everyone should think about that and honour and treat the earth with such respect”.

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

A cork oak tree on Vanya Maw's farm

A cork oak tree on Vanya Maw’s farm Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

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