A regenerative farm and future retreat centre

Site visit: Ren Xue Farm, Golden Bay

Ren Xue Farm, set to anchor the self-sustaining ethos of a Qi Xong retreat centre, is a community-led enterprise based in Onekaka. Purchased as a self-contained dairy farm, the vision for the farm includes diversifying its livestock and incorporating orchards and vegetable cultivation to better manage the land and expand its product range for the benefit and success of the centre.

Guided by the Aotearoa Retreat Centre Project’s Steering Group, and in collaboration with the locally-based Ren Xue community farm group – who meet regularly – Farm Manager Steve Lee takes the position that “every layer of diversity is a good thing if you can achieve it.”

The group has started exploring the benefits of using sheep to manage giant buttercup and employing the Albrecht Kinsey method of soil fertility within a regenerative approach, which introduces a variety of low-growth plants – including chicory, plantain and clover – into traditional grass feed paddocks.

Over the past two years, since purchasing the farm, the group has been working hard to improve fencing, especially around riparian areas, to reduce bank erosion from stock interference and improve the health of the waterways.

Through these efforts and more, the farm group anticipates significant improvements to the overall health of the farm, including addressing poor drainage caused by a layer of iron pan located about 30-50cm beneath the topsoil surface.

The Farm’s potential to positively impact and strengthen the local community, including the future retreat centre and residences, is additionally a key motivator. All plantings are thoughtfully positioned for easy access and enjoyment, with open spaces incorporated for the purpose of meditation and exercise.

The repurposed milking shed is now utilized by OK Grow nursery, who practice ecosourcing – gathering native seeds, propagating them, and planting the grown plants from within a 30km radius, contributing low carbon-mileage natives to the farm and nearby areas. A further intention is to develop the farm in ways that enhance local employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Ren Xue is a project with a 100-year vision, striving to establish the best possible farming practices within a sustainable and thriving community for generations to come.

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