I have been involved in urban farming for more than twenty years. What started out as an experimental hobby turned into a way of life.
Urban farming is part of my cultural heritage. As an Afrikaans speaking South African, I by tradition belong to an agricultural people. Give us a piece of land and we cultivate it. Growing up, most of my family lived on large plots of which at least half was covered by fruit orchards and vegetable gardens.
I have precious memories of visiting with my grandparents and on arrival at their house, immediately running to the orchard or garden to pick some fresh produce to nibble on: green beans, peas from the pod, sun ripened tomatoes or the foreign taste of kumquats. I was enchanted by the fact that one could grow your own food right in your own backyard.
In 1994 I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. At the time not much was known about the condition and the only remedy that my doctor prescribed was antidepressants and a healthy diet. I rejected the idea of using synthetic compounds but embraced a nutritious diet. I started a small potted garden with medicinal herbs to supplement my dietary needs.
Ten years passed until I made a life changing decision in 2004 to embrace a simplified way of living. The transformation came about after scrutinizing my lifestyle and questioning the validity of the things that I thought of value at that time. I prioritized my life and altered my lifestyle according to the new values that I have set for myself. I cut back on and minimized my consumerism and became more conservation orientated. I chose to invest my time in people and not in things. I also began cultivating a potted kitchen garden that was situated on the back porch of my house, seeking to be more self-sustained.
During 2008 I moved to a small game farm where I, right away started a vegetable garden. I also raised goats and chickens. In the same year the local as well as the global economy took a turn for the worse and my vegetable garden and livestock became a lifesaver. It fully supplied in all of my kitchen needs, which freed up my available cash for the things that I could not supply myself. It faithfully sustained me for the next three years.
After going through divorce in 2011 I lost the farm and my home. From thereon I chose to live from my suitcase and to travel. I wasn’t planning to settle down soon again.
However, if you are born and raised in Africa, you have red soil in your veins and the earth keeps on calling out to you. I could not deny the call and in late 2013 I acquired a cottage on a small yard to become home to me again. As soon as my partner and I moved into the cottage, we began cultivating a micro farm in the backyard. Within two months we were eating from the garden. We have been truly blessed with an exceptional harvest and had more than we need, to the extent that we had to preserve some of the produce. We are now planning to expand the micro farm to increase our produce in order to supply fresh organically grown vegetables to our community.
To me urban farming is a lifestyle choice that flows out of the essence of who I am. It fulfills my need for connecting with God through nature as well as my desire for good quality, organically grown food. We are largely self-sustained with regards to our kitchen needs, which complements our low expense, occasional income lifestyle. It also holds the potential as an additional income by providing fresh produce to neighbors and friends.
I farm because of who I am.
BLESSING: As you grow your garden may you cultivate more than food. May the abundance of your harvest inspire you to personal growth.