A Story of Two Great Food Revolution Men, Time To Heat Up the GM Fight and Store News…

Charlie Crowther - The incredible pastured pork farmer at Glen Oakes

Charlie Crowther – The incredible pastured pork farmer at Glen Oakes

Ever infusing a planet of character into the Bread and Wine kitchen

Ever infusing a planet of character into the Bread and Wine kitchen

It’s utterly absurd that in my last newsletter I said that I had just gotten back and wanted to knuckle and hole down in the store, breathe a bit and settle back, yet here I am back from another incredible series of farm visits and seminars and I could quite as easily start this newsletter with the same sentence as the last!
Back in-store with so much news from my last spate of travels, I hardly know where to start. There is so much to talk about, I’ll need to accept that I won’t get through it all in one shot.
My trip started with one of the most important gatherings we’ve yet had in the food revolution space.
The African Centre for Biosafety invited a group of the most passionate food activists in the country into one place, a gorgeous sun-lit room in Gardens, Cape Town to collaborate on addressing one of the most pressing concerns in our food revolution, the prevalence of glyphosate, a herbicide recently listed by IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) a division of the WHO – as a 2a probably carcinogen, in our food system.
With GM maize being the stable food crop in our country and glyphosate being the herbicide sprayed on these crops, we have glyphosate prolific in our country. The summary of a productive day of dialogue between people that care much about this topic was that we have a joint consensus to assist The African Centre for Biosafety with its demands on government for a complete ban on the use in this country.
There is another associated campaign that I will be asking you to support driven by a passionate non-GM activist, Rushka Johnson who has been in dialogue with a local retailer asking them to not sell glyphosate in their stores, into domestic homes and purchasable by children which she has proved is possible. Her message is that this herbicide has no place in domestic gardens around children and I will be sharing information as we go on how you can support her in this fight. She has tried open dialogue but they aren’t listening so she thinks it’s fair now to broaden the awareness of this herbicide and the dangers of it being sold for household use.
I might add we were in this discussion right around the corner from the #feesmustfall demonstrations happening outside parliament just around the corner. Gardens was a feisty place last Wednesday!
My son, a tuks student actually called me a hypocrite for walking down to the demonstrations after the seminar while he had been instructed to stay at home. Which is fair enough.  Anyhow, he didn’t listen to me and did attend and sent wonderful pictures of his rebellion and of being sprayed with tear gas, and all I could do was smile with pride.
Yes we do all have to stand up and together as one voice for things that are important, so Wednesday was a big day. This year has been a big year for that actually, we are finally learning about how true collaboration works and how much more strength is created when we come together as one voice and collective energy rather than individual success and struggle.
From there, I went to go and spend time and do a farm visit with Charlie Crowther at Glen Oakes Pastured Pork Farm in the Hemel en Aarde Valley and then onto Bread and Wine to see Neil Jewells and talk about the charcuterie and see new hams and salamis he’s inspired to make for us at the moment.
Please see the article – A Story Of Two Great Men – and pictures of my visit with both of them on the blog here.
As always it was a treasure to catch up with these two and then I had an unexpected trip to Boschendal after Neil had picked up the phone to executive chef Christiaan Campbell and said you need to talk to Debbie!
One thing led to another and I then went on to meet none other than Mark Muncer from Greenfieldsin the Midlands who has now left that to run a wholly grass-fed Black Angus project on the farm. I met so many people at Boschendal and ended up spending an entire afternoon there not only finding out more about their plans to turn the farm into a sustainable one, see Mark’s Black Angus cattle but also got to taste something exceptional – an aged 9 year old ox that the chefs were all raving about.
The taste was out of this world. For anybody in the area – there is a deli at Boschendal where you can purchase their grass-fed beef, free range chickens and fresh produce on the farm, it’s a very inspiring story and there is a grand commitment to convert the whole farm to a truly sustainable one over the next decade. Hopefully, if we can iron out logistics, we will be able to bring you their Black Angus beefin the near future.
Beef – however – is my big news for today. After getting back from Cape Town, I headed to the North-West province to meet a Stellenbosh wine maker who has gone into the heart of cattle grazing territory in the North-West to farm an indigenous cattle breed – the Boran – in the way he is most passionate about – as am I – wholly off veldt.
As you well know, despite the inconveniences it causes, I have a very particular passion for wholly veldt reared beef and have refused to sell beef in the store that is supplemented. I do not believe in supplemented beef being called ‘Grass-Fed’, I think it can be misleading and my heart is with farmers who rear cattle in such a way and farm with such a philosophy that the animals do not require supplementation. The area of supplementation is so hazy and can include an amount of grain supplementation and other that I just cannot put my name behind.
I’ve learnt after much trial and error to trust this and that is why my allegiance through the years has been with Keith Harvey and his holistic management grazing protocol which is about farming the veldt to be biodiverse and in its original condition which contains the right grazing for cattle. As I’ve mentioned, there is drought in Vryburg and because Keith won’t supplement, it is taking way longer for the cattle to get to size so we have been without beef for a while.
So hearing that there was another farmer, like Keith, in the North West practicing a similar philosophy, the only difference being that he has an added dimension and passion – to rear an indigenous breed – the Boran for beef, was utter music to my ears and despite really needing to get my butt back in the shop, with beef being such a pressing issue, I had to head straight to the North West after just getting back from Cape Town.
Boran traditionally hasn’t been used as the carcass size was dismissed as too small because feedlots look for larger carcass animals as they get more out in terms of bone to muscle ratio. With our focus on sustainable farming though, we don’t farm for efficiency, Tom is farming for sustainability.
Meeting Tom Breytanbach from Brennaissance yesterday put a rainbow of joy over my day.
I will be doing the story on Brennaissance shortly. This is a farm in Hartbeesfontein that is soley concerned with getting this indigenous breed back into a relationship with the natural veldt of the region and a farm that has no GM inputs on the farm whatsoever, a farmer with a steadfast commitment to truly sustainable beef and a passion for the Boran.
With this breed being indigenous, which means not European cross-bred it survives and fares the best on our indigenous veldt. He showed me grasses and veldt that cross breeds aren’t able to digest, but the Boran can. The cattle are in pristine condition and are less affected by drought because it is in their genes to cope on this land and eat a more diverse range of veldt. I was blown away by this farm.
Beef has been such a struggle and to find another farmer as passionate as Keith about rearing cattle properly by resurrecting the right grasslands for them, soul food.
I didn’t expect to meet such a like minded soul yesterday and to discover a second beef farmer that we can support and I’m ridiculously excited about bringing Brennaissance Boran Veldt Reared Beef to the store shortly. I will be doing a more extensive article on Tom, on Brennaissance and on the cattle soon.
We will have the first lot in store within the next 2 weeks, I will holler once it is in. It will be sold exclusively in this store in Joburg, it is currently reaching select restaurants in Cape Town and what also is exciting is that Hudson’s will shortly have a pattie on their menu only made from this beef. We’re going to build this up slowly with this farmer.
Look for the ‘Brennaissance’ pattie on the Hudson’s menus – and you can trust that one – I’ve just been there – it is wholly veldt reared by a farmer practicing intensive grazing to farm sustainably and who dedicates his life to farming in this manner.
There are also no other crops on the farm, no pesticides, no GM foods whatsoever – just land turned to resurrect natural veldt grazing for cattle.
We will sell those patties in-store too, so you now will be able to eat it out and get them here.
What is also going to be exceptional about this beef is the age. Tom is only going to slaughter much older animals which have had a long life on veldt. I’m so excited about this, the longer the animal’s life on veldt, the better the taste as well as the marbling and nutritional profile of the fat, beta-carotene, CLA and omega 3’s. I am literally counting the sleeps until I can taste this, one more sleep and first samples of the steaks to taste are coming to me tomorrow. I nearly keeled over when Tom sent me a picture of the carcass this morning – yellow, yellow fat, incredible marbling.
I’ll yell the moment we have our first batch in-store and obviously too when new cuts of Keith Harvey’s beef is in too which we still don’t have an ETA on yet.
On the fresh produce front – things are getting Summer exciting. Our first crop of tomatoes from Aloe Dale are in for the season, naturally grown without pesticides or artificial fertilisers.
There were some delectably fat little cocktail tomatoes last week, my daughter ate them like candy.
In today we have cucumbers a new batch of garlic, kale, curly kale, carrots, swiss chard, horse radish, celery, baby spinach, leeks, green beans, courgettes, patty-pans, beetroot, mulberries and lemons.
All The Gourmet Greek and Mooberry Dairy is in, compliments about it continually pour in.
If you want to order Aldersyde Farm – Tarkastad Karoo lamb boxes – please mail Michael – he can get them in for you within a couple of days – michael@organicemporium.co.za.
If you are new to us and Aldersyde Farm – Tarkastad Karoo – my Karoo lamb farm of choice, find the article on them here.
I have to get a book done on these farms next year and collate all these stories of these incredible farms, with the recipes we’ve done, they inspire me to get in here everyday. I’ll add it to the to-do list, why not?
Other news I guess worthy is that we have a new centre manager here. This is news because the centre really needs some strong vision and leadership to become a more attractive experience for you so that when you come and see us, it’s more rewarding to get other things done here.
There was a long period without one and I wasn’t settled here as most of you know. We halted plans to renovate the store, never feeling certain that we were in the right location.
This is all starting to turn around though after meeting the new centre manager. He is fantastic!
He is wide awake to the challenges of the centre and is going to transform this to something compelling.
I can’t talk further about plans now but it means that we will crack on with the store re-design in the short future and settle here.
So, it’s all looking up.
It’s been a long year and the pace isn’t slowing down at all – but it’s Summer – new growth is in – the farms we stand for are exciting, we’ll be bringing a ready made meal range soon using food from The Jozi Real Food farms – we’ll just keep on, keeping on.
Thank you for all your support, as always.
Much love, Debbie Logan
Standing for your right to access the best nourishment from South Africa’s most sustainable farms.
Yours in the Jozi Real Food Revolution,
The Organic Natural and Whole Food Emporium
Organic Blog – www.organicblog.co.za
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