The thing about Richard Wallis is, these days, he can compost anything! His enduring childhood memories revolve around sitting up the plum tree after mowing the lawn, gorging on juicy Black Dorises, throwing stones at the birds eyeing his ripening figs, the unforgettable texture of Golden Queen peaches plucked from the tree, the tart taste of passionfruit ripped from the vine and feijoas strewn on the footpath on his walk to school. As a teenager he was obsessed with growing native trees and frustrated by failed attempts to make compost.
After 30 years in the law, his quest for compost was re-ignited in a London school attended by his young boys. He cleared a large area that had been used by the school and its neighbours as a dumping ground, and in the clearing built a set of compost boxes. By trial and error he eventually learned how to compost all of the school's food and green waste plus other organic waste from the surrounding community.
As the compost began to flow, a lush kitchen garden evolved – children clambered to be in the garden club. Parents came in their droves on garden day, drawn by the subtle charms of a vibrant, thriving garden. Part time chefs taught the children how to harvest and cook the produce they had grown. The following year the garden won a gold award in the eco section of the Richmond In Bloom garden show.
He returned to New Zealand with the firm belief that the only worthwhile composting is done in communities using organic resources to hand for the purpose of growing food (whether for humans or bees), enhancing biodiversity and sequestering carbon in the soil. He also believes that if children could learn at a young age, as he did, the amazing taste of truly fresh fruit and vegetables, they will eat better as adults.
With these beliefs in mind, Richard set about developing a compost box system to enhance the capacity of schools and community gardens to produce their own high quality compost, so that no matter how rich or poor a person might be they could always have free access to high quality fresh fruit and vegetables. The New Zealand Box system is the end result of that process.
He is overjoyed with the concept of For The Love of Bees, the huge imaginative and physical effort that has gone into it, the obvious impact it is having for good, and its inclusive philosophy. As they say in Africa, "If you want to go fast, go alone - if you want to go far, go together"... and in such good company!