Land was blessed in the hope it will yield fresh fruit and vegetables for St David's Church and Toi Ohomai's joint venture of helping people struggling to put food on the table.

More than 20 people attended St David's Church in Owhata yesterday, where a memorandum of understanding between the two parties was signed.

Reverend Simon Cornwall blessed the venture, saying "may the opportunity of the relationship help those in need".

Attendees then had a tour of the church land, where the garden would be built, before brainstorming the types of plants they wanted to see in the garden.

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Suggestions included potatoes, pumpkins, courgettes and beans.

Rotorua District Presbyterian Church approached Toi Ohomai early this year to see if the institute's students would design and build a new garden and orchard, after the church's previous ones were part of land that was sold.

Toi Ohomai's level three horticulture students also needed practical work experience as part of their 12-month course.

St David's Church and Toi Ohomai have teamed up to build a garden that will eventually replenish local church food banks. Photo / Ben Fraser
St David's Church and Toi Ohomai have teamed up to build a garden that will eventually replenish local church food banks. Photo / Ben Fraser

What eventuated was a partnership that Toi Ohomai agriculture department programme manager Nick Edmonds said he saw as "long-term".

"It's a good chance for our students to get out into the community and give back."

It would take the better part of eight months for the garden and orchard to be up and running, Edmonds said, with students maintaining them from then on.

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The first harvest was expected to be at the end of spring, start of summer.

Horticulture and landscape student Jan Devries said it felt good to give back to the community.

"Fresh produce will be going out to them instead of leftovers from a supermarket."

Rotorua District Presbyterian Church (RDPC) convener Cathy Cooney said both parties would benefit from the partnership.

"We think it's wonderful because the students know that all of their effort will go towards helping people and it's an important way to support the community.

"The homeless, families in need, people are struggling. We're looking to respond when people are in need," she said.

Once cultivated, church volunteers would harvest the crops once or twice a week, Cooney said, and send them to the RDPC's community facing ministry, which included St Johns food bank, or "cupboard", and Ngongotaha's Trinity Community Church Centre "pantry".