Mohi Beckham is going back to his roots using the Maramataka, the Māori lunar calendar, to make positive changes to the way he farms.
For Mohi Beckham, Matariki signals the beginnings of the Māori new year which provides environmental, social, spiritual and cultural annual guidelines.
Traditionally, they instructed important events contributing to an agricultural/horticultural calendar. This methodology of interpreting the stars and moon phases determined the best time to undertake activities like planting, harvesting, hunting and fishing.
Following the traditions of the maramataka is a natural continuation of Mohi’s dedication to regenerative farming and the use of sustainable farming practices on his farm near Pukehina in the Bay of Plenty.
“Since we took on the farm, we’ve been focused on regen farming, using more sustainable practices to improve the overall health of the farm. We started aligning our farming methods to the maramataka around eight months ago and although its early days we’ve seen some really positive changes,” says Mohi.
“We base our farming on fungi and bacteria and drawing down carbon. We see the soil as being like our blood, the foundation, so you fix that you don’t just fix what’s on top. You don’t fix the symptom you fix the source. We are trying to create better soil, to create better plants which creates better food for the animals. That’s how we’re trying to treat the farm and being guided by the maramataka is part of that.”
Mohi’s interest in the maramataka really began when they started riparian planting on the property, and it’s something he’s keen to continue.
Ngāti Mākino Iwi Environmental Manager John Rapana in partnership with Te Uru Rakau secured funding through 1Billiion project. This enables multiple relationships to address the water quality issues in the Waitahanui. The Iwi lead project guided by the Te Arawa Maramataka (lunar calendar) that adapts to the changing environmental rather than impose a schedule against it.
Periods of low, waning, or unpredictable energy have been designated as appropriate periods for rest, planning, and monitoring. Periods of moderate energy have been designated as appropriate periods for site preparation and monitoring. Periods of high energy have been designated as appropriate periods for planting and pest plant control.
“At the moment following the maramataka is something we’re just dabbling in and learning along the way. It’s what my mum used to do and what they learnt as children. She tried to teach me about it when I was young, and I really regret not listening more closely.
“So far we’ve followed it for cropping and planting, and that’s brought a lot of life back to the farm. The fungi that’s around, the frogs and lizards, and birds galore, that’s what I’m loving. It’s good because it’s the building blocks of life.”
Although Mohi is only at the beginning of his maramataka journey, he’s excited about what is to come, and being able to gather some meaningful data.
“This year we’ll do a bit more and try and plan ahead. We’re starting to learn which stars are dim and which are not and what that means on the farm. We’re also doing things like testing the depth of our topsoil and calculating our cow’s methane emissions and looking at tree growth to see if using the practices aligned with the maramataka have any effect.”
But following the practices of the maramataka has not only been good for the farm, but on Mohi himself. Re-evaluating his own values and re-connecting with his roots has had a positive effect on his own well-being.
“When I was growing up, we didn’t have much money, so I thought money was success. I took some time to really look at what would make me happy which is when I changed the way I did things.
“I’ve found this style of farming really therapeutic for my mental health. Focusing on more natural practices feels great, and we’ve built a great community through it as well. We have a gym where a group of us all get together, pump some weights, and then chew a bit of fat afterwards and share some kai. It’s a great time for everyone to share what they are going through.
“If you find something you love, then you know you’re going to give it 110 percent and you’re just going to get better and better at it.”