Autumn Alarm: Harvest Festival in Whakamarama


Harvest Festivals sound the alarm – summer’s over, autumn’s here. The 2019 harvest event at the Whakamarama Hall is bigger than last time.

When I arrive the coffee cart table on the Hall lawn is crowded with well-known locals and Alessandra of Amore Foods in Omokoroa has the Hall kitchen counter set with afternoon tea savouries and sweets.

And I’m here too!

There’s more produce, products and preserves and more creativity. The child-height colouring in tables are full with adults as well as children. During the afternoon there are two speakers: a local beekeeper/honey producer and an environmental advocate.I watch as the judging duo of Suzanne and Emily Sturrock thoroughly assess every entry in every category. It’s a bigger task than you might think as each category is divided into three or four age-related sub-groups. There’s photography, colouring in, carved vegetables and creatively displayed produce and products. Oversized vegetables crowd one table alongside weird shaped vegetables (and they are weird) – the winner is a carrot with a personality disorder. It looks just like a person sitting down with their legs crossed. Disordered vegetable or not it wins a prize from the well-sponsored pool of goodies by the door. A small marrow has been carved with the image of a Tui – it’s unbelievably good. An enormous pale orange pumpkin diminishes huge apples and other large offerings to take away the “biggest” award.

The community has brought along examples of what they grow, make and preserve – this is a district of abundance. There are presentations worthy of an “Old Master’s” still life contrasting with simple, eye-catching single colour presentations.   The winning entry in the creative produce section is significant – a diverse collection of vegetables, fruits, citrus, herbs, preserves and homemade breadrolls – real country crafts effort.  There’s a very special mention for a family of tiny vegetable animals congregated at the front of the table. They’ve also taken thought, time and style to complete.Emily records every outcome and every winner on the detailed results form she’s been given before she and Suzanne embark on their final and most time-consuming task – the sweet and savoury preserves.  The most difficult part of this job is getting the lids off some of the jars. There are some that utterly refuse to disclose their contents. One of the Festival organizers has brought over every teaspoon from the Hall cutlery draw so tasting commences. I potter along behind testing some of the little jars more than once. One of the entries has even made their own crackers to accompany their fig-based condiment. They are absolutely delicious – I eat two.Suzanne is meticulous and measured, noting her opinion in writing as she goes along. “Too sweet; too hot, too bland, not quite….” and from this process of gourmet elimination selects a chutney as the ultimate winner. Emily, now an established maker of jam, is similarly particular in her assessments. “Too sweet, missing a zing….” finally whittling it down to three with the supreme product being a citrus combination marmalade.

Ask me….

There’s an excited prizegiving, raffle drawing and announcement of the eagle-eyed winner of the “guess how many” competition. Children who’ve sat quietly and intently colouring away the afternoon wait to see if their name is called. As the clapping and prize presentation continues I munch a portion of Amore’s delicious potato and bacon savoury.

Home time

I leave as the contestants are packing their entries into boxes, baskets and the Hall empties of people.   But I return. There’s stock on the road. The winning marmalade maker and her son (a photography winner) come back with me. Dressed and shod for an afternoon out, she opens the gate, goes into the paddock and shoos away the cows who think we’re inviting them out. Together the three of us put the ones from the road back into custody.   We laugh, say good-bye and get into our cars. This afternoon is what Whakamarama’s Harvest Festival has been all about – traditional rural New Zealand – I loved it.

Could have done with these!

Rosemary Balu.           Rosemary Balu is the founding and current Managing Editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.


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Janeane Joyce (Birds Bees and Butterflys) looks after, and feeds, a lot of birds, both wild (including rehabilitation) and in her aviaries.  She makes birdseed cakes and bird feeders to help with this. They are great for hanging in gardens and/or aviaries/cages, and the birds really enjoy them.

She also photographs many of her birds before release and makes greeting cards from them.  Visit her Facebook page at or email her on   She also shares lots of stories on her Facebook page about the different birds she is looking after through her volunteer wildlife work. 



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