Chartwell veggie patch – Our local and organic farm treasure

Chartwell veggie patch: Our local and organic farm treasure

What Shadrach and Kingdom are doing at the Chartwell veggie patch is so inspiring. I feel blessed every time Sam arrives with produce picked right that morning from Chartwell.
Most inspiring is how far these two incredible local growers have come by setting out to learn as much as they could and taking the gift of land and making it count.
I’ll never forget meeting Shadrach at Monaghan Farm much earlier on in my organic journey. He was one of the first organic farmers starting up that farm there and I lost contact with him after he left there.
I recently re-connected to him through another project that I had been introduced to earlier on at Chartwell Veggie Patch.
I met Kingdom on a piece of local land in Chartwell that had been given to him to use by the owner of the property. Kingdom had just started his organic journey and at some point down the road, he connected with Shadrach and now both of them are together farming some of the most incredible local soil I have ever seen in Jozi. They have come so far in such a short period of time, after visiting them I left feeling warm and inspired.
They both share a deep passion for organic farming and are self- taught. They have been assured as farming using organic methods by the Bryanston Organic Market’s PGS (participatory guarantee process) that involves fellow farmers, buyers and consumers alike who check the farm according to IFOAM’s (International Federation of Organic and Agricultural Movements) and PGS model.

Shadrach’s passion for soil is inspiring to the core. I listened to him describe in his gentle, slow and methodical way how there was a stage when he had no idea how he would earn any income from farming organically but knew that he didn’t care.

He knew that to follow his passion and heart was a blessing over and above money. He recounted how he felt like if he followed this path and just had enough to eat and shelter, he would still consider himself rich because working with soil and growing food makes him a blessed man as he wakes up to be in a place that is so rewarding to him.
Kingdom’s compost blew me away. The best evidence for me of a really good organic farmer is the richness and life within his compost. It’s the way the soil is fed and the life cycle of nourishment that results in the strong plants being  honoured by making sure that the soil is fed. His compost was mind blowing, digging into that rich universe of live organisms in symbiotic relationship and seeing evidence of so much life, so many worms and insects made my heart warm.

To eat produce from plants that have grown in soil this rich, this nourished is regrettably a luxury in our modern day living that too many do not know they are being denied.

I visited them shortly after the worst of the Jozi drought had hit and their produce was barely affected. Why? Because of their mulch.
A thick layer of mulch covers all their beds protecting the already rich soil, adequately fed by the calibre of compost they’re making from moisture loss.
The leaves on their produce were lush, the quality of the greens that came out of that soil in the middle of drought, hard evidence of the adage that organic farming a truly sustainable farming model. Even more importantly showing how organic farming is more about taking care of soil adequately than anything else.
If you provide plants with their rightful nutritious environment – the context of alive, nourished, soil – the whole system can survive bouts of drought. The soil was fed by the compost and the mulch kept the soil moist and live by protecting it from drying out. That farm is beautiful and inspiring.

Most inspiring is how far these two incredible local growers have come by setting out to learn as much as they could and taking the gift of land and making it count.

Chartwell veggie patch is also our most local farm for produce. To know when it comes in with Sam that it has been picked only hours before going on the shelves, less than 10km’s from the Organic Emporium store is treasure. It is our shortest food travelling distance for any of our farms, with the milk from Mooberry being the only farm closer.

Buying local means that you are getting the produce fresher than what you can ever get it in conventional stores with such a short travelling distance, it’s a joy to make this work.

The quality of the produce we are getting from them this season makes all the sense in the world when you visit these two special men and see the calibre of organic farmers they are. Their beds are immaculate, they are doing everything properly, crop rotation, compost, mulching, companion planting, using distraction plants to manage insects and looking after soil fertility first and foremost.
I can honestly say it is one of the most inspiring organic projects I’ve seen in too long and it’s a blessing to support them and have this in store and be connected to local Jozi food heroes like these.
We owe a large thank you to the providence of Francoise Harrison who supported Kingdom by letting him use a large portion of her land to start this beautiful venture too.
This season we’ve had beautiful carrots, pumpkin leaves, spinach, dandelion, gooseberries, radishes, Jerusalem artichokes, edible flowers and more.
I am excited to see what comes from them this winter and to continue to bring you produce from one of Jozi’s great food revolution farms – Chartwell Veggie Patch.

All photographs for this feature were taken by Dan Colpo.

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