In the mid-seventies a veritable seed was planted, a vision to create a market garden known as ‘Common Property’ able to grow organic vegetables as a way to connect young and marginalised people with the land.
Ten years into the initiative, Common Property was producing more vegetables than the collective of families could eat. It was then that Founders Jim Kebbell and Marion Wood decided to take their pioneering produce to the people of Wellington, opening their first official Commonsense store in November 1991.
Now 30 years since their initial vision, Commonsense Organics has gone on to become a well-loved blooming business, boasting five stores across Wellington and Auckland with another set to open later this year.
Organic pioneer and Common Property visionary Frances Wood was the inspiration for growing organically, at a time when this concept was relatively unknown.
Together Jim and Marion (daughter of Frances) and the Commonsense whānau have proven that, with a loyal customer community, credible brand and thriving business it is possible to sell stuff that is good for you and good for the earth.
An inspiring family business at heart, Co-founders Jim and Marion (who still leads as Executive Director) have been passionately driving change for the better both in their business and the wider industry since the seventies.
Jim still co-ordinates Common Property, is now an honorary Life Member of the Biological Producers and Consumers Association, and Marion is Chair of the Soil & Health Association, on the Fair Trade Wellington Board (she and Jim started Wellington’s first Trade Aid store), was chair of the Organic Traders Association of New Zealand, and has served as Vice Chair of the Sustainable Business Network.
Earlier this year they were jointly awarded the NZ Order of Merit for Services to Sustainable Business. Community Chair of Commonsense and Head of Communications and Corporate Services, Lucy Kebbell, and also the daughter of Jim and Marion, first joined her family’s business at 16 working in their first store.
Today Lucy leads many of the brand’s strong initiatives. Having worked for several years as a corporate lawyer, she contributes a wealth of commercial knowledge and insight to the growing business.
Since their very beginning 30 years ago, Commonsense has been committed to creating a kinder and more ethical future for everyone.
Their values lie strongly in providing organically grown food, actively preserving the earth’s resources through environmental sustainability initiatives and ensuring they acknowledge fair trade and social responsibility both within their business and that of their suppliers and partners.
They’re incredibly passionate about what they stand for and do, and regularly partake in environmental and socially responsible initiatives and campaigns across New Zealand that include:
- New Zealand Organic Week Awards sponsor and award winner
- Te Waka Kai Ora – National Maori Organic Authority hui winner
- Fair Trade Fortnight advocate (with the largest selection of fair trade goods nationwide)
- Plastic Free July advocate
- Living Wage accredited employer
- A key supporter of the campaign for Parliament to pass a Modern Slavery Act
- Core business supporter of the School Strike 4 Climate – closing its doors so that its staff could march
To mark their 30th birthday celebrations which officially fall this year on November 7, the Commonsense team have launched a suite of celebratory limited edition birthday products, collaborating with other leading ethical New Zealand suppliers.