Katrina completed the CO.STARTERS for Causes programme at EcoMatters in October 2017. This is Katrina’s story.
Hi, I’m Katrina Wolff and I’m the founder of Blue Borage. Blue Borage is a biodynamic urban farm and a foodscaping service, creating kitchen gardens for homes and businesses. We empower home cooks to grow the salad greens and herbs that could (and I say should) be in every home garden.
I was out shopping at a farmers’ market with a friend, and she was planning to cook a venison stew. She needed rosemary, thyme and parsley. She had to spend nearly $10 – just for herbs, just for one meal. I realised I could provide better value, and so started the concept of ‘home herb deliveries’ – getting a household just what they wanted to use each week.
I’ve worked in the disability sector for the last six years, and have been grappling with the disempowerment many people with intellectual disabilities face. I think modern businesses could be more supportive of all kinds of diversity. I live by the motto ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ Which meant I had to act. I have an in creating successful employment opportunities for people with learning difficulties. This is my primary focus.
We started out at local markets selling herbs, salad greens and microgreens. We supply The Block in Blockhouse Bay with edible flowers, and our ‘herb boxes’ are frequently delivered to households around Titirangi. We will soon be offering full vegetable boxes to our local community.
We have our first foodscaping clients, and need many more to create the jobs we are hoping to establish. Each foodscaping client so far has had a very different set of requirements, so it is turning out to be a truly customised service.
The process of training future staff has been the highlight of our development to date, and you can see the sense of achievement people get when taking part in a garden transformation. I just love this process, and I doubt I will ever get tired of rejuvenating people’s connections with their garden.
My biggest learning from CO.STARTERS for Causes was to do research. Talk to customers, ask open ended questions, and listen to the answers. Get into the head of the customer, the community, and be open minded about what the solution looks like. I think we are now becoming masters in the art of pivoting – responding to what the business needs, and learning what our customers want.
I really enjoyed hearing from the owners and founders of New Zealand social enterprise businesses. Even the ones with very different models to what I am doing were studies in management, marketing, strategy and much more. I highly recommend the course for this aspect alone. The group I was learning with were a neat bunch of people – very friendly, supportive, and generous in sharing their wins and their challenges
My long-term vision is that every spare space of land in suburban New Zealand is producing something – food, flowers, or compost.
Feeding ourselves is a skill that can be regained as a society. It’s a valuable skill, and one most people could learn. I look forward to the day when one of our trainees, perhaps someone with autism, is seen by their neighbours as ‘the one who knows all about growing food.’
I would like for Blue Borage to be an alternative to the mainstream, or traditional support mechanisms currently available to people with intellectual disabilities. I would like to provide a model for other businesses to embrace diversity in their workforce, and make space for everyone who is able to find employment, because there is room for everyone.
I’d love to hear from you if you’re interested in volunteering to help urbanise food production with biodynamics. You can find me and follow our journey through the Blue Borage Facebook Page and Instagram.