Over a quarter century of 'good for you, good for the earth!'
Our 25th birthday commemorative Wellington Chocolate Factory bar wrapper, illustrated by Gina Kiel
The seed for Commonsense was sown in 1975. Jim Kebbell and Marion Wood (and a bunch of other hippie dreamers) bought some land in Te Horo and named it Common Property. The idea was to grow vegetables as a way to connect young and marginalised people with the land.
Marion’s mother, Frances, insisted that the land was to be farmed organically. Jim, of fifth generation farming stock, was initially sceptical, but when he learned about the impact that industrialised chemicals were having on the soil and food supply chain, he agreed with Frances’ wisdom.
A decade or so on and the farm was producing more vegetables than the collective of families could eat: proving that you don’t need to break the ground to be ground-breaking. But, back in the early ‘90s supermarkets were as interested in Common Property’s scruffy rebel zucchini and tomatoes, as they were in, say, craft beer or coffee beans. So, what to do?
Ex-Catholic priest Jim saw a sign – a ‘for rent’ sign – in the window of 263 Wakefield St, and Marion and he decided they were going to take their pioneering produce to the people of Wellington.
On the 7th of November 1991, the first Commonsense store opened.
So where are we now? Business is blooming, now with six stores – five in Wellington and one in Mt Eden, Auckland. Together, Jim and Marion and our Commonsense whānau have shown that Frances was on to something: that selling stuff that is “good for you, good for the earth” is just common sense.