was established in 1941 by conscientious objectors and today describes itself as an intentional community: the intentions being peaceful and sustainable. Subsequently many immigrants from Germany and the low countries have settled in this part of NZ and some now live here.
We visited hoping to see their agriculture and communal living model and got lucky;
Wednesday is the communal day, and Verena greeted us warmly before quickly roping us into the kitchen to prepare ratatouille and apples for a crumble.
It was lovely to work alongside strangers, coring apples from the orchard, and to say grace with 50 people holding hands.
Unlike many communities, Riverside is proactive about attracting new folk. Rents are low and full members contribute in kind to a communal kitty which then pays the rent, covers basic living expenses and even the occasional overseas trip. Prospective members are offered a two year trial tenancy in a property on the 500 acre estate.
In the past the orchards have contributed and a cafe was setup onsite to convert produce into cash. That continues to thrive but is now franchised out. Today the community’s main source of income is a small dairy herd and some of the milk is vended onsite.
As markets and regulations have changed the community has sought to diversify and develop new sources of income. But whilst there’s never been a shortage of ideas, the tenacity and skills to turn them into sustainable businesses has sometimes been lacking.
Walking around the estate we saw fallow vegetable patches which suggested more market gardening had happened in the past. That seemed odd, as though the cafe thrives it buys in its supplies, but then fieldwork is hard work and though the climate is pleasant and it’s a great place to live close to nature and raise a family, manual and farm skills have always been in short supply.
A fascinating and wonderful day ended in a spontaneous invitation to dinner from a lovely couple after we asked about their fantastic, ancient Bedford truck.
I think we all appreciated Riverside’s charms and thank the community for their hospitality.