Robert and Robyn Guyton were determined to start a food forest instead of mowing a front lawn. And a forest did they grow, when in the mid-’90′s, they purchased some land and a house in the small coastal town of Riverton, New Zealand. Riverton along with its neighbor, Invercargill rank as one of the southernmost towns in the world, and back then Riverton was an affordable place to buy land. It still is compared to the northern resort towns of Wanaka and Queenstown, the latter which graces its runway with private jets, rivaling Aspen Colorado.
The Guytons worked in earnest on their two lots planting trees and plants based on permaculture practices. When they first started, they received some odd looks from the neighbors, as their front yard started to take on the forest look. There were no other like-minded people in Riverton when they arrived, but undeterred, they started a cooperative learning center called the South Coast Environment Society.
Today the organization modestly states on its website it is an umbrella group for a “several” local environmental groups who have information,displays and meetings in the centre. Those several groups include:
Groups working for protection and enhancement of local ecosystems:
- Riverton Estuary Care Society
- Aparima Pest Busters
- Aparima Nursery Enterprise
- Seed Balls for Restoration projects
Groups working to promote sustainable lifestyles:
- Riverton Natural Health Group
- South Coast Permaculture
- Sustainable Lifestyles project
- Riverton Organic Food Co-op
Groups promoting sustainable growing methods
- Riverton Organic Growers Gardeners Group
- Southland Seed Savers
- Riverton Organic Farmers Market
- Riverton Community Orchard
- Rivertonians for Alternatives to Toxic Substances (RATS)
My wife and I met the Guytons when they were giving a presentation on sustainability to the ultra small Garston School, (which deserves its own blog post), New Zealand. We were intrigued with their presentation, which included a movie (to be posted on this blog) called “Welcome to the Food Forest”. We decided to take our chances and take the hour and half drive from our place and show up unannounced. Even though we had a standing invitation, we happened to miss them, when we stopped by to say hi. Nevertheless, I decided to interview Mark Baily while visiting the centre. You can see the video on my adjacent post. We’ll have to get down there again when Robert and Robyn are home, so we can get the proper tour of their food forest!