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Feeding the Family With 95% Locally Sourced Food – by Anna Lakeman

Submitted by on August 12, 2011 – 5:28 pm 2 Comments

Foraging, a family affair

Thursday 11th August

Mother of four Anna Lakeman ponders a self-reliant food supply as she harvests locally grown food for a mussel chowder she and her family entered in the Takaka Great Local Good Challenge.

Today I had a hectic, and inspiring afternoon of cooking an entry for the Great Local Food Challenge, held at the Wholemeal Cafe in Takaka. The dish my son (Jay) and I prepared was a delicious seafood chowder. The process leading up to the judging brought about more learning and insights than I could have imagined.

Jay had been out on a commercial fishing boat for a few days recently, and came home with a bounty of fish, some of which I was happy to see filling up some space in my freezer. Today, Jay sent me a text suggesting at the last minute, as teens are prone to do, that he might enter a dish in the Local Food Challenge. A fish dish was the obvious choice. I had been contemplating making a seafood chowder, as I had been pondering making some the last few times I’d been out collecting cockles.

I dutifully volunteered to venture out in the pouring rain to fulfill my primal instincts to gather food for my family (with the added incentive of some cool prizes, and a bit of healthy competition, and a desire to foster my sons desire to become a top chef).

One of my favorite occupations is collecting cockles at low tide. There is something quite magical about those little green lips of cockle shell, poking out through the sand. I find it addictive in nature, foraging; always having to find the next one, and then the next. I always find it a challenge to stop, to force my sight away from the sand, and to fix my gaze on the van.

That was the first dilemma of this exercise for me. I was already creating food miles by driving close to 16 kilometers in total, to gather the cockles and mussels for our chowder. Jay had brought the Gurnard back from the fishing trip, so there were food miles clocked up for that ingredient too. At least the veges in the dish were all from a farm a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from home.

Good ol’ Waitapu Gardens here in Takaka. I love them, and I love the wee chats I have with Bev. She always remembers I’ll want some broccoli. It’s a good feeling knowing I support a local grower. You can’t get much more local than than the Waitapu Gardens, they’re only about a kilometer away! Except if you grew your own, which is something I wish I could say. But until we catch the two rogue chickens inhabiting our property, no vege seedling is safe, so my gardening attempts have been rather more subdued than normal.

The non-local ingredient, other than salt and pepper, was cream, and if I had had more notice, I would have easily sourced this here in Golden Bay.

The family who dominated the entries in the Great Local Food Challenge tonight were inspiring. They live out at Kaihoka (West Coast of Golden Bay, South Island, New Zealand), and have their own house cow. The children are home schooled and they made a project out of the challenge. It was interesting to hear their thoughts on what sort of things we’d still need from “over the hill” and that most of everything we need can be produced within the area already.

It’s an interesting prospect, that of consuming only food grown locally. I have entertained the thought many times, particularly in recent times of perceived global climate turmoil etc. I believe Golden Bay has all the right elements to make self reliance possible. I thoroughly recommend a book by Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (2007) which chronicles her families adventure into food self reliance.

As I was hunting around on her website, I even discovered there is a term for people who eat locally produced food “Locavore”.  There must be quite a movement globally, and I’m inspired to jump on the bandwagon. It is an incredible journey, but when you think about it, for a little perspective, it was only a couple of hundred years ago when we all had to be very good at it, or we would have starved. From my own experiences it also takes an enormous amount of effort and dedication, and I think most people find that very discouraging. It does however bring the focus of a family around the kitchen, and away from the TV and computer.

I take pride knowing that my family wouldn’t starve if we couldn’t buy food from the supermarket any more. We can hunt, gather wild food, grow veges, farm animals, kill, butcher, fish, save seeds, tend orchards etc…But right now, we’re renting, and it’s not a huge incentive to turn the backyard into a scene from “The Good Life”  What if there was a well structured, community led initiative already in place if/when/before the need arrives for Golden Bay self reliance?

We already have the community gardens. I’m thinking it would be great to have a community farm. Maybe the animals could be owned by shareholders who would take joint responsibility and care, and gain access to fresh, raw milk, dairy products and meat.  I’m also thinking about a seed saving group, as these treasures are the essence of self reliance. People such as Sol Morgan and John Gilardi have done wonderful things when it comes to protecting heritage seed saving in Golden Bay, but we all need to do more of it. More and more seeds are treated/bred before we buy them to render the crop infertile to produce viable seed for the following season.

Thanks to the  following environmentally responsible businesses for supporting Happyzine:


  • Eco-friendly –  Reusable for years upon years
  • Safe & non-leaching – BPA free (bisphenol-A)
  • Solid food-grade stainless steel – Super hygienic & clean


Lets not forget the bees!! I could get really carried away with this!! Another idea I’ve had is offering small set up grants to help kick start home orchards and vege gardens. Of course we can’t talk food self reliance without the trusty hub of a community, the farmers market. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have our community coming together and trading in HANDS, our local green dollar currency? Then we’d really be keeping it local! It’s so exciting. And all this sprung from the well of thoughts evoked through the apparently simple challenge of producing a gourmet dish from all(a 5% exception was allowed) local ingredients.

In case you’re wondering, I graciously let Jay enter the chowder under his name, and we got second place in the adults savoury dish, and won some great prizes! What a fun and rewarding experience.

Anna Lakeman

Takaka, Golden Bay, New Zealand.

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  • Claire says:

    wonderful write up Anna – very inspiring! all possible and so exciting cos its actually happening!

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  • Anna Lakeman says:

    Thanks Claire,
    It is exciting! So what did you mean by “it’s actually happening”? I’d like to be involved somehow.
    Charlotte has my contact details.

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