Hamlin Road Organic Farm – a special place to flourish
Published: November 23, 2023
Pathways believes in the importance of nutrition and its critical link to wellbeing. For 20 years Pathways’ Hamlin Road Organic Farm has been providing an innovative service to the South Auckland community. The farm supports people with mental health challenges to get valuable paid work experience, learn skills, gain qualifications and build confidence, while they prepare for permanent employment elsewhere. Hamlin Road farm is also a fully functioning commercial enterprise and grows an array of quality organic produce, herbs, sprouts and seedlings.
The farm is a living example of Pathways’ dream to transform mental health and addictions through fostering strong, compassionate, self-supporting communities.
We spoke to the Hamlin Road Organic Farm’s team coach, Sarah Hewitt, to learn more about her team’s mahi.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It starts with a farm meeting every morning. We do stretches to warm up our bodies, check in and discuss the day and what’s ahead. I open and stock up our roadside stall, and harvest and package webstore orders for delivery and collection.
Then it’s on to lots of planting, weeding, watering, propagating seeds, preparing indoor and outdoor planting beds, fertilising plants with organic seaweed, crop maintenance, harvesting and eco-packaging organic produce and seedlings for the weekly farmer’s market and Kings Plant Barn, and other general farm maintenance.
Throughout the day, my teams and I work closely with our trainees to role model, encourage good work ethics and support them with their NZQA horticulture studies. I meet with clinical and employment consultants to update them on our trainees’ progress and where extra supports are required.
What is the best part of your job?
Spending the day with my work whānau and supporting people to achieve work-ready skills and move into open employment or further study. We support people to socialise and reconnect with their communities by meeting different people through the various farm services.
I also enjoy the physical work, getting my hands dirty working outdoors. Organics, teaching horticulture, growing healthy organic produce, and being recognised for this! Our business is growing and there are lots of new opportunities. It also helps to work in an organisation like Pathways, whose values align with my own.
How do you think connecting to nature and gardening can help people to live well?
Gardening is good for your soul! It grounds us and makes us appreciate everything that Papatūānuku has provided, and connects us to her. It takes us outdoors where we can feel the elements, listen to the birds and watch the bugs – something you can do independently or with others.
It supports physical wellbeing, helping people take their mind off challenges, or providing a safe environment to discuss them. Also, with gardening comes the satisfaction of watching something evolve. Eating, sharing and cooking what you have grown, controlling what you grow and how you grow it so you can avoid the harmful sprays that may be in store-bought produce, and saving money.
Research shows that moving into employment from unemployment is beneficial for mental health.
What have you seen that supports this?
Our trainees tell us that employment gives them a purpose. Where they are valued and can gain more financial independence. But the thing we hear the most is, “This is so much better than sitting at home doing nothing.”
I’ve seen people grow in confidence, take on more opportunities and responsibilities, and feel like they are a person with a lived experience, rather than a diagnosis. They feel like anything is possible.
What is your favourite vegetable?
There are too many, I can’t choose between chillies, rocket, beans, coriander, beetroot, butternuts and heirloom tomatoes straight off the vine. I love eating seasonally and fresh. I eat as much as I can until I’m over it, and then wait for three more seasons to roll around to do it all again. I am also currently loving cauliflower mash.
Finally, what is your favourite recipe from our Wholesome cookbook?
I love the Really great green salad with chilli and lime dressing, followed so closely by the Beef and lentil meatballs – served with cauliflower mash of course!