This was one of our most commented-on stories of 2022 after it was first published in March.
The Hamilton suburb of Rototuna is best known for its nice houses and schools, but three years ago, the area received an unusual neighbour - an organic fruit and vegetable farm Earth Stewards.
The farm uses a special method to grow vegetables, called biology first organic regenerative horticulture which means they don't use heavy machinery or chemicals to plant and de-weed and do most of the required work by hand.
Founded by Clare and Warwick Hutchinson on 1.3 hectares in the heart of Rototuna, the Earth Stewards Urban Farm grows more than 20 varieties of season-dependent vegetables that they sell at the Hamilton Farmers' Market, online or at their new farm shop.
Warwick says: "We want to give people the opportunity to reconnect with their food, show them where it comes from. Earth Stewards was specifically designed to feed the community."
When Warwick, a civil engineer, and Clare, a nurse and midwife, bought the property 25 years ago, they didn't know how big of a community they were going to feed. Their main focus was education, starting the Waikato Waldorf School with only nine pupils. Over the years it has grown to include early childcare facilities as well.
"In the first years of the school, we had a teacher who started a school garden for the kids to learn about gardening and grow vegetables. So we have been farming here horticulturally for 25 years.
"Three years ago one of the parents came to us saying that there was a possibility that the garden was efficient enough to feed a wider community."
As they retired, they looked for something to do and got involved in setting up the farm.
"We set the infrastructure in place. Personally, I'm not so good with plants, but I help with building things like tools and greenhouses."
But why organic?
"Because it's the only way to go. It makes stronger, healthier plants. I have been brought up on organics, my grandfather had a big horticulture block. The taste of organics is the key thing that's different."
Clare says she and Warwick want to live by example and pass on their knowledge to future generations.
The farm is now run by four women, Coral Remiro, Georgia Hamilton, Lena Treml and Alex Dunnam who do things a bit differently: They not only follow strict organic standards but also use a no-dig farming method.
Farm manager Coral Remiro says no-dig means disturbing the soil as little as possible throughout the sowing, growing and harvest process.
"This allows the soil's natural ecosystem to enrich the ground. We learned that it's not the plant that you have to feed, it's the soil, which then feeds the plant.
"Although it's called no-dig farming, we do dig holes in the ground to set out our plants. Holes are okay, but we never turn layers of soil, that is what does the damage."
The soil gets tested regularly to ensure the farm complies with organic standards and Remiro says the organic content of the soil was "pretty good".
Warwick adds: "Zealong tea have their organic farm on our boundary and they told us when we started that this here is the best soil in the Waikato."
Being certified organic means the Earth Stewards don't use chemicals or pesticides to remove weeds.
Remiro says: "We manually remove the perennial weeds. It's all physical labour, no use of heavy equipment.
"We also don't direct seed, we transplant seedlings. If they are bigger, they got a kickstart and are gonna be faster than the weeds."
Remiro and her team plant every species by hand.
"At the beginning, we used the end of a broomstick to make holes in the ground for the seedlings, but now Warrick built us a special tool that allows us to do more holes at the same time."
The Earth Stewards also practise polyculture which means they plant multiple species next to each other in the same plot.
"You have to be a bit careful playing with different species, but we have to make the most out of our square metres to ensure the beds are full for months. All our beds are in place for at least six months, after that we rotate what goes in each bed."
Coral and her team are harvesting twice a week for online orders, weekly subscription boxes, the farm shop and the market - all by hand.
By using the no-dig method as well as harvesting and planting by hand, the farm's Co2 emissions are kept low. Their emissions for transport are also very low as they produce in Hamilton, for Hamiltonians.
"It takes only a couple of kilometres to get our products to you."
Check out their website and online shop here.
Their farm shop at Rimu Cottage at 66 Te Manatu Drive, Huntington, is open every Tuesday from 3pm to 6 pm.