What has the hill country of Herbertville got in common with the Wimbledon Commons? (No – not Wombles – but nearly!) Both places have been a source of inspiration for Jenny Speedy, a 2008 graduate from the Certificate in Applied Organics and Biodynamics. Jenny grew up on a conventional sheep and beef hill-country farm in Herbertville, southern Wairarapa, and says she grew up “just loving the land”. Jenny went on to develop a lasting interest in horticulture, and travelled to the UK after completing her Diploma (Horticulture) at Lincoln.
Then in the beautiful, natural forests of England and the wild gardens of Wimbledon Common her love of true nature was rekindled. “That’s perhaps where I kicked off the feel of natural growing rather than controlled growing.”
Back in New Zealand in 1989, Jenny worked in Dene’s Garden Way in Havelock North for 10 years and there her interest of organic gardening grew. “While I was there I became really fed up with people coming in and buying chemically-produced sprays and fertilisers. There was just no care, it was so glaringly obvious. So we tried to bring an organic influence mainly through encouraging greater use of compost and organic based products on the shelves. At that time Peter Bacchus was making his wonderful Eco compost which we would sell.”
During her time at Dene’s Gardenway, Jenny met her partner Remco and together they bought Possum Lodge – a five acre property up the Tukituki River. “We were in heaven,” Jenny recalls, and together they worked and lived organically with Possum Lodge, until some 2 years ago when they decided to sell and move to Hastings.“The reality of school set in,” says Jenny referring to her three children, ages 5, 7 and 9, “and we wanted to pursue other dreams.” One of those dreams was to do the ‘organics and biodynamics course’ at Taruna, which Jenny had been lining up for more than 8 years.
For Jenny the course design very much reflected what they were learning. “The course was structured in a very conscious way. It started with the soil and built it up to the human being and then brought in the spiritual aspects. There’s this beautiful foundation – building to where you are prepared (like the soil) and then you can (finally) relate to the developing plant.”
Jenny tells how the course has enriched her connection with plants. “The plant observation was wonderful. I loved it but I had to work hard at that having come with conventional habits and then it wasn’t until the very end that it made sense.”
For Jenny it was a process of ‘bringing it through myself” and now the Dandelion, Jenny’s chosen plant for the observation exercise, is a dear garden friend. “I love Dandelions they are not a weed at all. They are a true connector of the earth and the heavens, such a healing plant with this concentration of light-forces. Plants are such a symbol of life. I look at the plant now and see a whole different thing – before I looked at the health only, but now it’s more ‘how and where the plant grows’ that can tell us something.”
Further catalysts for studying the Certificate were motherhood and a deep concern for the health of the earth. “This was a huge influence – how to feed my family the best way and nurturing our body, mind and soul – the complete nutritional picture; also, knowing that the past conventional ways just aren’t working and wanting to help nurture the earth back to health.”
And the result? Jenny is now building a beautiful edible garden for her family at her Hastings home, and working biodynamically at thriving Te Koha Orchard. Jenny runs two compost heaps – “one ready and one on the go” and is also passionate about saving seeds, especially of heritage plants.