Commonsense is a family business based on three key values: organic food, environmental sustainability and fair trade. We’ve been going strong since 1991, and these values still underpin everything we do!
When SCOUT Cosmetics founder Sylvie Hutchings wanted to find effective, natural, and organic cosmetics that also delivered on performance she found very little that lived up to her high standards. Sylvie is not someone inclined to give up, so she set out to create the types of products she would like to use herself!
"I wanted to be able offer products that not only enhanced your natural beauty, but also looked after your skin. I wanted to be able to offer an exciting alternative to ‘mainstream’ brands without the potential harmful and toxic ingredients, but which were still high in quality and performance."
The development of SCOUT nail polish came about during a difficult time in Sylvie’s life as in 2012, 10 days before Christmas, she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
“It was a big twist in the journey… it really reset everything for me…I had to think about what was important to me and I realised more than ever the importance of doing things you love… It was also important for me to set an example for my boys and show that despite life being full of surprises… you meet your challenges head on and keep going…”
Sylvie’s search for a nail polish with fewer toxic chemicals came during her cancer treatment, while experiencing the damaging effects of chemotherapy on her nails. She was advised by the nurses in her chemo suite to paint her nails to help strengthen them but she was unable to find a formulation with ingredients she was comfortable with. After some research, Sylvie discovered she could create a choice of formulations that did not contain the ingredients she was keen to avoid, such as Formaldehyde, DBP, Toulene, Formaldehyde Resin and Camphor, and from there the idea for her toxin free nail polish range was born. During her 5-hour chemotherapy treatments, Sylvie would work on the range, and finally launched the collection straight after treatment was complete.
Importantly, the benefits of these products aren't limited to what they don't contain - there are many ingredients that are good for nails in the formulation, such as essential nourishing oils and added vitamins. And the wide range of colours available means that there really is no reason for anyone to be painting a cocktail of chemicals on their nails.
Creating natural and clean cosmetics that made Sylvie feel naturally beautiful, particularly while undergoing treatment, was vital to her brand philosophy. These core values transcend throughout SCOUT as she continuously aims to create an organic, active beauty range that empowers her customers to feel beautiful, special and self-empowered, knowing that they can wear SCOUT products with absolute confidence.
At Commonsense we stand by the quality of SCOUT's range of innovative Breathable Superfood Infused Nail Polish which is currently the only nail polish range to pass our rigorous buying policies and earn a place on our shelves.
Pasture Poultry was established over 20 years ago by Pauline and John Blaikie in Rewa, Rangitikei; after two decades of hard work Pauline and John decided to take a well-deserved rest - enter Sentry Hill Organics, a like-minded outfit based on a 200 hectare, 6th generation family farm near Takapau, Central Hawkes Bay, under the Ruahine ranges.
In Mid-2018 the Pasture Poultry brand was purchased and moved to this new location where PJ, Tom, Sally and Mike, along with their families, continue the passion that was started over 20 years ago. Mike, who delivers our eggs himself every Tuesday says:
"The chickens share the farm with cattle, sheep, and pigs. They range over a 30 hectare block, free to roam wherever. They eat a feed mix of organic maize, barley, oats, pasture and plants which are specially grown for the chickens to forage in, along with any tasty morsels they find in the ground. Hens are like people...no two hens are the same. The size of egg, the colour of the shell and yolk all vary, but rest assured they all have access to the same food and as much pasture as they want! We've got eggstatic hens!" (Nice one Mike!)
The farm is home to 6500 hens; eggs are collected daily (from our neatly colour-coded houses) and transferred to our packhouse for packing and dispatch. The hen houses are moved regularly to encourage land regeneration and to give the hens access to new pasture.
For more info and updates check out www.pasturepoultry.co.nz
Sean is the manager of Common Property. He was born on a dairy farm in Norfolk and was brought up around conventional farms, where he learned heaps of skills he still uses every day. His interest in mechanics led him to do a degree in Agricultural Machinery and Advanced Welding.
Sean is married to Kimberley (they met while Kim was working in our Kapiti shop!) and together they have started a new business, Moonlight Organics Ltd, importing home compostable film. Sean is experimenting with growing leeks which are notoriously difficult to weed because there is no leaf cover to suppress the weeds. The compostable film breaks down within months using the micro-organisms in the soil. For more information regarding the compostable film you can visit Moonlight Organics website www.mulchfilm.co.nz.
Sean says that Kim and him share the same values – they both feel it is really important how you feed your children and that means growing organic food because it is best for the kids and best for the land.
"You can’t do it any other way except organic – I want my kids to grow up healthy and I want to leave the land in a better way than when I first started growing. There’s so much happening beneath the surface and it’s our responsibility to care for the soil and look after it."
Sean's passion for organic farming means he is always open to teaching others. He continues to grow some amazing produce including broccoli, cauliflower, beetroot, leeks, cabbages, silverbeet, kale, cavolo nero, fennel and celery.
Robert Glensor has been baking certified organic bread since 1996 and Purebread was the first bakery to become organic. Purebread is made with high quality Australian organic flour which Robert describes as "beautiful velvet flour".
He says people often comment that they can’t usually eat wheat bread because it makes them feel bloated, but they can eat Purebread and says this is because:
"our naturally fermented dough bubbles for 3 – 4 hours to break down the complex carbohydrates so our stomachs can digest it more easily."
Modern systems of commercial bread making have concentrated on developing superfast systems to maximise the financial returns. Robert feels that this compromises the nutritional value of the bread. ‘The technology is amazing but the nutritional value is not so flash. We are more focused on producing bread that provides the maximum returns on the health of our customers.’
Sustainability is at the heart of his business and in 2008 Purebread won the Sustainable Business Network Supreme Award. His weekly landfill rubbish is the size of a netball – so small that it is not enough for commercial disposal, so it is taken to the dump every 3 or 4 weeks along with the rubbish from his home!
Mayatiita grows microgreens in a greenhouse at Common Property and he reckons that microgreens are still Wellington’s best kept secret.
"So many mums say to me that their kids won’t eat greens – but they ask for my microgreens!"
Mayatiita recommends putting microgreens on your food, not in it – they shouldn't be cooked. "Sprinkle a small handful on soups, stews, or pizza as well as salads and rolls" he advises. "They are incredible versitile as well as high in nutritional value."
He says growing microgreens organically ticks all the boxes – it’s doing good with no negative effects. He thinks it’s really important that microgreens are grown in soil under the light of the sun. ‘Non organic microgreens are grown in shipping containers and force-fed on mats but you can’t replicate what’s in the soil with mats and you can’t replace the sun with LEDs and still expect to get the same quality product’
For Mayatiita the whole kaupapa is about food that is living. He studied horticulture at Massey; when he was instructed to use chemicals on the crop he asked if there was an organic alternative – and was booed by the group. He was told about the organic agriculture unit at Lincoln and decided to visit. ‘I got quite emotional when I saw what they were doing – to me it was sheer harmony’. So he transferred to Lincoln and immediately started getting A+ for his papers – as opposed to the E- from Massey!
The hardest thing is managing packaging and waste – plastic punnets he uses for growing the microgreens are now weaker and last for less time so there’s more thrown away. The potting mix he uses used to come in 1 cu m fadges and he would onsell the second hand potting mix in the fadges. Now it is only delivered in 40 litre plastic sacks that just need to be thrown away. And even though he packages his own product in compostable packaging he is aware that, without the infrastructure to support commercial compositing, it is likely to end up in the landfill anyway.
Mayatiita says he got into microgreens when he was growing wheatgrass - one day he threw a few mesclun seeds onto a punnet and they grew – then he discovered there was a whole industry around micro greens. We're certainly glad he made this discovery as we have been enjoying his greens ever since!
Reuben is one of the many growers operating out of Common Property and he lives with his partner in a converted cow shed on the farm. He has built himself a tiny house in the back yard and transports his crates in an electric van.
Reuben started at Common Property as a mistake! Sean, the farm manager, rang him and asked if he wanted to work next week at Common Property – Reuben was a bit surprised but needed some work so agreed then when Sean seemed surprised to see him, later discovered that Sean had rung the wrong Reuben!
His first job was working on a free-range pig farm. But he found farming animals inefficient – ‘you put so much in and don’t get that much out’. He was also interested in environmental issues and this led him to a plant-based diet.
Reuben started at Common Property as a teenager and was surprised at how much pleasure he got out of growing. So, with a few years experience under his belt and Sean’s support, he started his own business at Common Property. He now grows aubergines in a tunnel house and corn in the front field.
For him it’s not so much about the money – it’s the satisfaction of knowing you’re growing top quality food and that it will be enjoyed by the people cooking and eating it. When asked about the difference between his organic produce and conventional farming he says:
"A lot more work has gone into them, a lot more care, a lot more passion – and I’m proud of them. They’re clean and they only get sprayed with organic neem oil – it’s a susceptible crop and non-organic aubergines are usually sprayed a lot with chemicals. Growing them organically is hard, but it’s worth it."
This is his first season ‘It’s a lot more work than I expected – I don’t have much time for surfing – but it’s gradually paying off’. He plans to expand into pumpkin and garlic, tomatoes and cucumber and we just can't wait!
Alan grows the best organic salad mix in the country containing up to 14 different salad varieties, especially in the summer. His business operates out of a large plot on Common Property which he runs with his wife, Gill. It’s a real family affair with his daughter and sister-in-law also working there and so did his son until recently heading off on his OE.
Alan worked for 16 years at a wholesale production plant nursery says that’s where he really learned to grow. But the signs were there from an early age helping his Dad in the home vegetable patch. When Gill was expecting their first child he went to night classes to study horticulture. Even though his training was in conventional growing he’s glad he made the switch to organics – to him it just makes sense to stay away from sprays.
Alan aims to grow the salad mix outdoors all year round but, depending on the weather, this generally ranges between 9 and 12 months of the year. As well as salad mix he grows fennel, zucchini, scallopini and cucumbers.
Barbara Harford and Lawrence Silas have been developing their OFNZ certified property, Treehut Farm in Te Horo since 2011, planting a new orchard including almonds and berryfruit and developing a forest garden. The chicken barn (built in 1904) is now a commercial kitchen where Barbara makes a wide range of delicious spreads, jams, chutneys and sauces from the orchard produce while Lawrence tends the bees who pollinate their crops and produce their delicious honey.
"The jam-making started as a fund-raiser to pay for our son’s football, and then I just kept experimenting, using what was available in our orchard. I’m just constantly learning and that’s how the land and the business evolves."
Barbara Harford of Te Horo Harvest
Barbara learned to cook commercially when she bought her first ‘health’ shop – The Natural Gourmet in Sydney – where she made and sold vegetarian food. It was so popular she expanded into an old bakery calling it ‘ Open Sesame’ – and sold cakes and savouries wholesale to other businesses. She draws on her experience as a graphic designer to create all her own labels.
For Barbara ‘organics’ has to be part of her philosophy and part of her life. It’s not just about growing organically – it’s important to her that the fundamental principles of organics (health, ecology, fairness and care), flow through all aspects of the business. From the start she has packed her products in glass and never considered plastic. Part of their property (native bush of totara, kohekohe and matai) is now covenanted and the birdlife is extensive. Some of their fruit trees they leave for the birds – kereru love almonds and the old plum varieties. And her meticulous attention to detail is reflected in the quality of all the products she creates.
Peter Robson grows the tastiest strawberries in the country – he's such a skilled grower he has been known to supply us with the delicious red berries as late as July! Peter lives in the farmhouse at Common Property: for most of his working life he has been involved in conventional horticulture but he started learning how to grow using organic methods.
"My Dad was from the north of England and had a garden out the back and his father had an allotment. They taught me how to grow. It’s all about understanding the soil, looking at how different varieties perform – and then a whole lot of little things. I guess it’s just in my nature – I’m always looking at differences and analysing the subtle changes"
Peter has a degree in horticultural sciences, and he majored in entymology and plant pathology and also did a business degree. This led to a consultancy contract with the Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries (now Ministry for Primary Industries) advising on conventional methods of growing a range of fruit and vegetables. He was also a partner in a fumigation company noting that "back then we just sprayed everything. Things have changed a lot since then."
Peter started growing strawberries organically at Common Property and he has carried the scientific approach and the curiosity about differences into this work too. He says that organic growing has different challenges:
"The risks from soil-borne disease is higher and more time has to go into pest management. But the risks of the chemical approach is to the health of the soil and the health of the operators of the spray machines. You tend to find out later what these chemicals can do."
Peter thinks that conventional agriculture will continue to move towards organics.
"The market wants clean food without sprays. Growing organically we work with the environment and find new ways of controlling pests that are natural, like using pheromones to disrupt the reproductive cycle of pests like caterpillars."
The scientific approach and methods that Peter brings to his work combine to provide the delicious strawberries that you can find in our stores.
As a values-based business it is important to us to ensure that every claim we make is genuine. Throughout Organic Week you’ll see in store signs popping up to let you know why we think organics are the better for you, and our planet! Set out below is the basis for these statements.
Organic food is real food
Organic food is food as it should be. The chemicals that plants naturally produce to protect themselves against diseases can also help to protect us from getting ill.
Organic food is free from artificial colours and preservatives, contains fewer pesticides, no manufactured herbicides (like Roundup) or artificial fertilisers and no GM ingredients. Organic meat is always free-range and free from antibiotics.
Organic farmers are permitted to use just 20 pesticides, derived from natural ingredients including citronella and clove oil, but only under very restricted circumstances. Organic food is fully traceable from paddock to plate, so you can be sure of what you’re eating – and that it’s real food!
Organic agriculture protects our waterways
Organic farming methods improve the soil biology and soil structure, which means better water retention and less nutrient leaching. Organic and biological farmers make use of natural fertilizers including legumes, instead of soluble artificial nitrogen fertilizers that are more prone to leaching.
So organic farming can address the growing concern about the public health impacts of high density livestock production – especially dairy farming. 62% of monitored waterways in Aotearoa-New Zealand are unsafe for swimming, and a big factor in this is nitrogen pollution from the increasing intensification of agriculture. Organic farming can help mitigate the pollution of our waterways and the increasing nitrate levels in drinking water.
Organic farms support birds and bees
Organic farming methods work to promote biodiversity and encourage wildlife in the system. This includes protecting and enhancing forest remnants, wetlands and other natural ecosystems that support wildlife. Organic farming also includes biodiversity as a way to enhance production. Allowing for diversity in an agricultural system helps to increase resilience to climate change and market fluctuations and reduces susceptibility to pest and disease outbreaks.
Globally the rate of insect extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered. According to the first global scientific review intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines, particularly the heavy use of pesticides.
Organic growers pay not to pollute
Organic farmers use no soluble mineral salt fertilisers and very few chemicals. Weed, disease and pests are controlled by crop rotation, the use of natural predators, biological diversity and the use of limited mechanical and chemical intervention.
Agriculture is responsible for 47.9% of Aotearoa-New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions and a big contributor is the intensive dairying industry. And, as mentioned above, intensive farming is responsible for pollution of our precious waterways.
But industrial farmers do not pay to offset greenhouse gas emissions – this cost is picked up by the taxpayer. And farmers who pollute, do not pay to clean up the waterways – this cost is picked up by ratepayers.
Organic farmers don’t use synthetic fertilisers and they don’t overstock their farms so there is less methane emitted and no run off from nitrogen fertilisers. Because they have to pay to maintain their certification (our guarantee that they are doing what they say they are doing) there is a cost in preserving our environment that conventional farmers do not have to carry.
Organic skincare avoids toxins
Certified organic skincare products are made up of 70 – 95% certified organic ingredients. The remaining natural ingredients must meet strict international standards.
This means they are free from parabens, phthalates and other controversial chemicals; they are also free from synthetic perfumes, colours and dyes and free from animal testing, GMOs and nano particles.