Farm art at The Stray Dog
On the way back to Auckland from Thames last week I took myself off the regular run, turning right from SH25 at Waitakaruru to meander up the more interesting Miranda Road. On a curve, not far past the Miranda Hot Pools, I came across an unremarkable shed containing a small shop and a cafe called The Stray Dog. It turned out to be the front door to an intriguing story. The café/shop owner is Annie Wilson – a landscape designer who’d developed a passion for growing organic fruit and heritage vegetables. In the late 1990s she and husband Sean had bought five hectares of abandoned land and set about transforming it. Annie had longed to growing safe, nutrient-dense food and educating others to do the same; on this sloping piece of Miranda her vision has been realised. The couple have nurtured the chemical-infested land back to health. One hectare is planted in vegetables and in the sizeable orchard apple, peach, plum, quince and fig trees grow in abundance. Everything is certified organic. “What used to supply our nutritional goodness is being lost,” explained Annie. “Our health is being destroyed by some of the things commercial growers do to our food. “Heritage produce is often a lot better for us than new varieties. The heritage tomato variety Moonglow, for instance, has marvellous properties. We sell heritage beans, organic zucchini, peppers basil and many other vegetables and fruit as well as jams, relishes and juices.” All restaurant produce comes from Annie’s garden and the rest she sells at farmers markets. The time has come and she led me to her next project, which is something she had visualised for a long time. She’d often exhibited garden sculpture on the property and now, a short walk from the café is Miranda Farm Gallery in a modern building filled with light and the paintings, prints, sculptures and ceramics by some of the art world’s well-known names. All of it is for sale. The strong Pacific images of Fatu Feu’u and a series by Michael Smither grabbed my attention and there are works by Warren Viscoe, Christine Hellyar, Nick Dryden and others. Jill Malcolm is a former editor of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations and author of the Great Kiwi Motorhome Guide.