Fiona had always been drawn to working with children who experience behavioural or learning difficulties.
She started her career working with under-fives and studying Early Childhood Education and Care. This showed her the world of Psychology and led to a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Education.
From growing up on a farm, she learnt the value and impact the land can have on one's development and wellbeing. At the age of 18 she had a dream to start a 'Farm School' and that led to travel to understand how other education systems worked. It also meant she could follow the snow and continue ski instructing!
Her passion for the outdoors meant she was a guide and learned a lot about working with teens and the energy they hold. She wanted to find a way to support Kiwi youth, to support them to feel loved and learn to love themselves, to experience the epic NZ outdoors and to build a community of support and be the best versions of themselves.
She worked in the Christchurch Youth Justice Sector for five years, studied Forensic Mental Health, and is also a Practitioner NLP and the Havening Technique™. After a short time working with adults in the mental health sector, she was awarded the Vodafone Foundation grant with Bailey Peryman that enabled them to start Cultivate.
She is now the Managing Director and a loving step-mother and mother of 3 boys with another child on the way. "Cultivate is something well beyond that original dream and will continue to develop and be responsive to the needs of our young people in Canterbury".
General Manager + Sales & Produce Coordinator
Sarah joined Cultivate in November 2020 as Sales & Produce Coordinator and manages the logistics of getting all those lovely fresh veggies into your hands. Since October 2021 she is also occupying the General Manager position, covering for Fiona while she is on maternity leave. Sarah has worked in the non-profit sector for 10+ years, and specifically working with organics and community food projects for nine of those.
Her most recent job before Cultivate was in London for another community-focused veggie box scheme doing very similar things! She's now pleased to be back in Aotearoa and is enjoying the opportunity to put her skills and experience to use in her home town.
She has a great passion for building a more sustainable way of living and sees our food supply as a crucial part of this. Alongside working at Cultivate she also teaches yoga, and is grateful for the yoga teachings and their ability to help people with their physical and mental wellbeing.
Simon studied Environmental Science at Lincoln University as well as Organic Horticulture at the Lincoln BHU. This inspired him to work in the Organic Horticulture sector.
His main focus has been composting and the area he began with us at Cultivate after working for three years at the Christchurch municipal composting plant - Living Earth. He soon demonstrated his skills and knowledge in Organic systems and leadership on the farm, coupled with being a compassionate mentor and inspiring role model for our interns and soon became the Head Farmer early 2021.
Outside of Cultivate, Simon loves being a part-time musician, he is a part of the Christchurch Tiny House Society and is often researching and looking into Permaculture/ Agroforestry.
2IC to Head Grower
Dylan has been involved in the local organic food movement since 2012 when he attended the BHU Organic Training College and started helping out at local community gardens. This ignited a lifelong passion of feeding people and connecting people to place and planet through food.
Dylan first became involved with Cultivate in 2016 and helped expand the growing area at the Peterborough farm along with establishing the Halswell site.
Since then he has pretty much become part of the furniture around here and you will often see him zipping around town delivering produce. Or, if you are lucky enough to pick up your veggie bag from the farm then it will be his smiling face you are most likely to see.
Renata is the mother of two gorgeous young children, who nicknamed Cultivate as 'Fi's garden' as they lived just down the road from the Peterborough Street Farm, when it was opened.
They love getting fresh produce and seeing it on the table, which is a huge part of what she wants for our younger generation - to see sustainable and healthy ways of living.
As a customer who loves the philosophy and quality of what Cultivate provides, a background in running her own business from home, Renata has the skills and passion to support the central services and keep up with the development of the business.
Intern & Community Coordinator
Emily is our Internship Coordinator and comes from a solid background in working with young people in mental health.
Emily is of Kai Tahu whakapapa and recognises decolonisation and Māori self-determination as playing a major role in wellbeing outcomes. She studied Education at UC and has worked mediating conversations between clinicians and youth accessing mental health services and as a part of the team creating Reframe Whānaga.
Emily is super passionate about supporting peeps to explore their strengths and what is meaningful to them and is also interested in legislation surrounding what a more socially just and equitable world could look like.
She is particularly drawn to Cultivate for the holistic approach it takes to wellbeing; acknowledging the intersections between environmental, community and personal wellness.
Youth and Whānau Co-ordinator for the Regenerate project in Richmond
Harry joined Cultivate in 2021 to support the development of the Richmond project.
Harry is from Western Australia originally, and entered youth work in a small community centre in Northern Rivers, New South Wales. She moved to Aotearoa in 2019, working as a youth worker in Ponēke for a year, before moving to Ōtautahi. As a youth worker Harry has written and facilitated youth programmes about healthy relationships, mental health and wellbeing and community connection, as well as one-to-one work with young folks and their whānau. Alongside her work at Cultivate, she has delivers healthy relationships and consent training in high schools all around Canterbury. She is a current social work student.
Harry has a background in philosophy, and a particular interest in sharing and strengthening critical thinking skills to empower young folk and whānau through exploring their ideas and values. She is particularly excited about the task-oriented approach that Cultivate has to youth work, and the holistic approach of the organisation to well-being and community empowerment through growing wholesome kai. Harry is always seeking more knowledge and kōrero about community development, empowering and promoting youth interests and voices, and social justice. She is at the beginning of her journey in learning to grow kai, and very excited to learn alongside youth and whānau.
Cultivate Board Director
Robyn became involved with the board in 2019, becoming a Director early 2021. Her background is finance and general management and as a Director, Robyn provides oversight and strategic guidance for the organisation, with a focus on systems, processes and helping implement and maintain robust financial reporting practices to help ensure Cultivate's longevity.
Throughout her life, Robyn had a lot of mentors who supported her, and knows that this had a significant impact on her learning and her life. As an organisation to support and become involved with, Cultivate stood out to her for it’s unique combination of youth work and farming, and the way in which the team at Cultivate support and empower the young people that are undertaking a Cultivate internship.
The success rate of the intern program is very impressive, and shows that the farm environment supports significant personal development and personal growth for those who work there.
She is passionate about the importance of knowing where your food comes from and how to grow it, and is always extremely impressed with the high quality produce the team at Cultivate produce, all while empowering young people to change their lives.
CHARLES 'MERF' MERFIELD,
HND COMM. HORT., M.APPL.SCI. HONS, PHD, MRSNZ.
Farming Strategy and best practice advisor
Merf is the Head of the BHU Future Farming Centre, which is dedicated to the science and extension of permanent and whole-system agricultures and horticultures, such as organic agriculture, agroecology, and regenerative agriculture. He has over thirty years experience, both as a grower, having managed organic vegetable farms in both his native UK and adopted New Zealand, and as a scientist finding practical and effective physical, biological and ecological solutions to agricultural challenges.
His speciality is being a generalist, covering all aspects of production from soils upwards, but he has a particular focus on non-chemical weed management. He continues to work with and for farmers and growers through consulting and helping farmer groups, where he often acts as a bridge between the real world of farming and slightly surreal world of research helping farmers and scientists talk with, rather than past, each other.
Chair of Advisory Board
With a real passion for mentoring businesses, Aaron prides himself on providing clear, practical advice drawn from his own experiences as a business owner. Aaron has particular expertise in working with businesses to increase profitability, drive efficiencies, and realise potential. Aaron has worked with corporates, national franchises and a variety of businesses operating across a wide range of sectors throughout New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Germany and the UK.
Outside of work, Aaron and his wife are kept busy with their two young sons and two dachshund dogs – both of which require frequent but not very long walks! He enjoys keeping active, and networking on the golf course with the aim of dropping his handicap back to single digits.
Why Cultivate? Quite simply, alignment with the purpose the organisation serves. Supporting young people resonates and is a key driver of his personally, creating a sense of belonging and giving back to the community.
As a young boy who had aspirations without the financial security to fall back on, he fully understands what it takes to build resilience, persistence, emotional intelligence and inquisitiveness to grow not only as a professional, but as a person. This enables him to have an open mind, display empathy to the cause and create the constant drive to develop and maintain a sustainable and stable environment for young people to learn and provide a safe space to allow them to explore who they are and what they want to achieve.
Bailey is the co-founder of Cultivate alongside Fiona Stewart, starting officially in 2015 and since moving on from the organisation in April 2020.
Bailey was initially responsible for much of the farm planning, design and development, working alongside youth interns in a practical role before focusing more on funding, strategy and the exploration of commercial opportunities (e.g. 'Broccoli Bonds').
He remains in regular contact with Fiona and is optimistic about the future for Cultivate, given the extensive support base and track record it has gathered in the community over the years. "I keep hearing about Cultivate and learning new stories of how it has inspired others. It brings me comfort knowing the safe, healing spaces we originally aspired for are continuing to show the value of this kaupapa".
Bailey is currently working towards a PhD at University of Canterbury on the subject of localised composting and the exercise of sovereignty. Here's a recent article published including reflections from his time at Cultivate.
"I love the energy that comes with a young person and the wisdom that's generally untapped because they haven't been in an environment where they feel comfortable to open up and share their perspective of the world. I'm learning so much every day from giving them a voice. It's mind-blowing!"
Fiona Stewart, Co-Founder Cultivate Christchurch