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I recently entered a writing competition organised through Narrative Imperative.

Founded in 2018 by a group of friends, Narrative Imperative is a creative platform that engages New Zealanders in policy and advocacy.

Through the lens of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), its advocates for everyday voices to influence Government policy and decision making.

Narrative Imperative believes Aotearoa is a multi-ethnic society in which Māori have special status as Tangata Whenua. We recognise our role and responsibilities to meet the obligations of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and endeavour to foster a platform that helps champion Māori and indigenous voices and people of colour.

Their web site is located at About — NARRATIVE IMPERATIVE

The competition required entrants to write a piece addressing one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

I chose Zero Hunger | Hemokai Kore

My entry is as follows:

Evelyn’s Garden

“Is there anything I can do, Mum?”

“I’m old Alice, I’ve had my time. Please don’t cry, I’ll be okay. I’m not afraid.” 

“Oh, Mum, I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be, I’m ready; it’s your father who’ll be sorry. Leaving me here on my own for all these years!”

Alice released a timid smile. “Are you sure I can’t do anything?”

“Well, there is something; before I go, I want to see the farm one last time. I want to go back to the valley.”

“I’m not sure you’ll be allowed. I’d need to check with the doctor, the nurses.”

“Don’t be daft, girl. They’ll say no. How stupid do you think I am? C’mon, help me out of bed, let’s go now.”

“Wha…what? We can’t go now!” 

“Why not? I’ll be gone for good in a few days; why can’t we go now? Are you going to deny my dying wish?”  

“It’d not like that Mum, I’d do anything for you, but I’ve got Cody in the car. I’ve got to get him back to Paula by five o’clock. It’s Tuesday, my day to look after him after school.”

“Well, all the more reason to go then, I get to see my great-grandson one last time.” 

Alice thought for a moment, then released a courageous smile. “Okay, let’s go, I’d do anything for you, and I’d do anything to get Cody’s head out of that flaming iPad.”

“Cody, say hello to Great Granny, don’t be rude.”

“Hi Gran,” Cody grunted without lifting his head. 

“It’s rude not to look at people when you’re talking to them, Cody,” Alice scolded.

“He’s alright…he’s busy. What are you playing?”

“Minecraft.” 

“And how do you play Minecraft?”

“I dunno… you build and collect things.”

“That’s great, Cody, but put that thing away. I want to tell you a story.”

Cody reluctantly retired the iPad to the seat next to him.

“How old are you, Gran asked?”

“Seven.”

“When I was seven, I lived on a farm. That’s where we’re going now. It was the best time of my life. My brothers and sisters and I used to collect things all the time. We collected wild field mushrooms, blackberries, apples, cress, walnuts, peaches, plums and pears, dill, and all sorts of herbs for my Mum. If we needed anything, we didn’t go to the Supermarket like your Mum does; we just went for a walk! Gooseberries were my favourite! Best collecting in the world. Betcha, it beats Minecraft.” 

Cody didn’t respond. He looked out the window, watching the passing cows, heads down, munching on pristine paddocks. 

“The valley looks beautiful, Mum,” Alice said.

“Yes, it does, but where are all the trees? It now looks too beautiful. When I was young, it was still scrubby. There were rickety fences, tufty grass laced with the occasional clump of reeds. There were glades of trees everywhere. Little pockets of places to hide, build huts, forage. Now the land looks like a real estate sales photo. Too green, too clean, full of cows. Where’s the sheep, where’s the crops?”

“Times change, Mum.”

“Yes, I know, but what a shame. This lane we’re driving on, there used to be wild berries along all its side. The creek that used to run alongside the road is now a culvert; where’s the cress? Betcha there are no eels either.”

“We’re nearly at the old farm, Mum. Shall we stop?”    

“Oh, go on then. In for a penny in for a pound. I’ll not get another chance to see the place.”

Five minutes later, they pulled into a long dusty lane. 

“Oh my, oh no, they’ve pulled the old house down, Mum.” Alice looked over; her Mum had tears in her eyes. Alice gently placed her hand on her Mother’s leg, shocked, only feeling loose skin and bone.

They stopped outside a modern built home complete with landscaping and a double garage. A man, presumedly the farmer, exited the garage. 

“Afternoon, you ladies lost?”

“No, no,” Alice replied. “My Mum was born on this farm, in the old house that used to be here. We wanted to come back and see it.” 

“Well, you’d better come in and have a cuppa of tea. I’d love to learn more about this place. I’m Adam Eden, been farming here for three years.”

Alice introduced herself, her Mother Evelyn and grandson Cody. 

I live here on my own, Adam said, leading them into his kitchen. My wife left me for the Co-op Tanker driver, couple of years back, so it’s only biscuits, I’m afraid. While the kettle is boiling, I’ll just go grab something from the office. Be back in a tick. 

Adam walked back in with an old photo album. “I found it in the attic of the old place before it was torn down. It might bring back some memories.”

Enjoying her tea, Evelyn shed tears flicking through the photos of the house, the farm, and the memories they stirred. 

“Thank you,” she sobbed, “seeing it all again is so bittersweet.”   

Why’s that, Adam asked?

“Because buildings, animals and even people can be replaced, People come, they go, so do buildings.   That’s the natural cycle of life. But the life I had here can’t be replaced. My family was poor when we lived here. My Dad struggled to make a decent living, but we we’re so rich in many other ways. We never went without. There was always plenty to eat, plenty of food. Now efficiency means every square inch of land is taken up with production. Nothing is free. If we lived here now, we would starve. That makes me sad.” 

Adam smiled. “I totally agree with you Evelyn, modern farming is about efficiency. It’s about the bottom line. Farms used to serve their towns and communities; we were all connected for the common good. Now we serve the Bank Manager and the Accountant. There is no understanding between town and country. Many Farmers have become insular, and most townies are ignorant about where their food comes from and how it is produced.

When you were a girl, Evelyn, everyone was connected to the land, to a farmer. Farmers were viewed in the same way and held in the same regards as Doctors and the like. Most people now think food is produced by supermarkets and factories. I’d like to change that.”

“How,” interrupted Cody, suddenly interested in the conversation? 

Well, I’ve started meeting with the District Council, with a town planner called Mr Schnake. I’m working on an idea to turn town into a giant market garden. Instead of maintaining flower beds and shrubs, the town’s works department will plant vegetables. The trees planted on berms will be fruit trees. Town will be turned into a massive foraging zone. No one should go without. No one should go hungry.”

Alice scratched her head, “as a farmer, won’t you miss out? Won’t the market gardeners miss out? 

“You would think so, but no. I genuinely believe the only people who’ll miss out are the processed food manufacturers and the supermarkets. They will still be in business but might need to rethink their models. Hopefully, people will reconnect with Fruit and Vegetables, their diets will improve, obesity and digestive diseases will reduce. The damage packaging does to the environment will reduce. More trees, less greenhouse gas. And most importantly, people will never go hungry, and food will be healthy.”

“I still don’t see how the farmers would be happy,” Alice replied.

“It’s a medium-term strategy. Not too long in the future, the world will start running out of food. That’s a fact. We need to stay ahead of the game. If towns and cities can produce their food, then farmers can concentrate on exporting. The world will need feeding, and NZ Farmers could be riding on that wave. More exports mean more dollars. But we need to feed New Zealanders first, right?”

Evelyn smiled. “So, will Mr Schnake and the council permit this to happen?” 

The council likes the idea, they see its merits, but Schnake says they’re broke. He doesn’t think ratepayers would be prepared to contribute anything extra. So, I’m looking at ways to fund a pilot. I’d contribute myself, but I’m struggling to keep the farm with my divorce coming up. I need to pay out my ex. half of everything.

“How much do you need?”

“Not too much, local farmers have agreed to contribute seedlings and plants; they’ve even agreed to contribute labour and equipment. But seed money will be needed to market the idea, get everyone on board. The programme will also need a coordinator, so that will need to be funded. I reckon fifty thousand would do it.”

Three weeks later, Rural Delivery dropped off an envelope to Adam Eden. It was from Allpress and Graves, solicitors from town. Must be divorce-related, he thought, opening the envelope carefully. 

It wasn’t. It was a fifty-thousand-dollar cheque from the Estate of Evelyn Robertson. For the garden, the letter stated.

Voting is now open for 2021 Campaign.

Click here to vote for me! Vote — NARRATIVE IMPERATIVE Just search for Roly Andrews in the drop down box!

Thank you and Kia Ora

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