When weighing up moving to Mauke we were well aware that many have ‘given up’ on the outer islands; depopulation continues and challenges mount up. To have any chance of making a positive difference we knew we had to be there living and doing, not just talking.
Although we live off the land there seems no way to live totally without money and so in 2018 we turned our thoughts to how we might help our tiny economy by bringing in money from outside of Mauke.
Shelvana, of Mauke’s Makatea General Store, enjoyed the home made preserves I gave her from time to time and thought they would sell. So, with the encouragement of friends, family and dreams of reducing imports (thus our carbon footprint), Andrew and I began experimenting with local produce to make jams, jellies, chutneys and sauces using our own home made vinegars & sundried fruits.
Over time we narrowed down to about 30 products. Very few are able to be made year round, as produce is seasonal, so variety is important.
The name ‘Mauke Moments’ was Andrew’s clever idea. After mmmming and ahhing over a cracker with a tasty spread on it he said something like, I’m really enjoying this moment and declared… that’s what we should call this business. And so it is:-)
Initially we sold about 10 jars a week, mainly to men from NZ working on Mauke’s solar project. Mauke Moments was a popular gift whenever they travelled home. At the end of the project they left and sales dropped, by which time with the support of BTIB (Business Trade and Investment Board) and friends, markets began to open in Rarotonga and people began collecting empty jars for us to recycle.
We have no refrigeration, so make from fresh produce grown organically. Whenever possible, we process on the same day that the produce is harvested, sometimes just 4 hours separates harvest from sealed jars. There are just a few ingredients that must be imported e.g. sugar, onions, garlic and some spices. I purchase organic whenever possible, but cannot guarantee them.
There are no ‘best before’ dates because as long as the lid seal is good preserves will keep for years. Produce for selling is generally made just 3 or 4 weeks before leaving our island by boat, but in our own home supply occasionally I’ll find a stray jar that’s up to 4 years old, yet delicious as ever. In fact, often preserves improve with maturity.
Income is still very small, but as orders grow we have expanded our planting and occasionally have purchased from growers on Mauke – an exciting development to our island economy in value added local agriculture. Turmeric and ginger are two crops we purchase from others when we can’t supply enough ourselves, to ensure we meet a regular order from a cafe on Rarotonga.
Now Island Crafts offers their hand so that Mauke Moments can reach far beyond our little island paradise.
We are excited and trust you will be also as we walk this challenging adventure together.