Kalahari 100% Veldt Reared Beef and Holistic Management

Vryburg cattle at Keith Harvey's Farm

This is a deeply personal story of a dedicated farmer managing veldt according to holistic management practices and an online organic store’s attempts in Johannesburg to sell the fruits of that labor as Kalahari 100% Grass Fed Beef.

As an owner of a growing online organic business, I have much to scratch my head about on a good day. It often feels like a constant swim upstream. I started out as a passionate food activist and soon found myself knee deep in a logistics business that I felt ill equipped to manage. I just wanted to save the world and eat great food.

Sometimes I’ve wanted to give up yet I haven’t been able to. Once I had walked real farms and seen real worms in rich soil and understood the relationship between the nutrition of the land and the quality of the food grown or raised on it, turning back wasn’t an option. Boxed cereal or battery raised chicken or a piece of feedlot steak could never again suffice. Every food item for me is now a picture of a farm and of soil. I’ve made the connection and I’ll spend the rest of my life helping others to do the same.
This is where I was at in my life as owner of The Organic Natural and Whole Food Emporium when I met Keith Harvey and was introduced to the principles of holistic management through his Kalahari 100% Grass Fed Beef initiative.
My prior attempts to sell ‘free-range’ and ‘grass-fed’ beef, lamb and pork had been peppered with difficulties. I wanted to find the holy grail of beef in this country, that of an animal solely eating its natural diet.
I had come across farms who were calling their beef ‘grass-fed’ but who were still including grain and without being audited to any standard, really could supplement with as much grain as they wanted. Without traceability and audited standards, you just have to take the farmer or butcher’s word for it and I don’t think that’s good enough. It’s also wide open to abuse.
I wanted a 100% pastured animal and I wanted a direct relationship with the farmer. I wanted a farmer I could believe in, could trust and who was wholly accessible. I wanted a farmer that lives his philosophy. Keith Harvey is the ultimate expression of all that I wanted and all that I believe the food revolution needs in character and form.
When Stephen Barrow, a trust worthy colleague I had met through the Gauteng organic network, recommended that I talk to Keith Harvey, a holistic management farmer in the Vryburg region doing beef, I jumped at the opportunity. Knowing the caliber of Stephen’s standards and impeccable ethic, I knew to pay attention.
Kalahari 100% Grass Fed Beef is farmed in the Vryburg region in the Northwest province of Southern Africa under strict protocols that do not allow any grain, supplementation or chemical interference and only permit that cows are grazed 100% on the veldt and that the veldt is rich and fertile and kept in pristine condition.
These protocols are being registered with SAMIC (South African Meat Industry Company; a quality assurance company which was created by the Red Meat Industry of South Africa to ensure the quality and safety of meat in South Africa, see www.samic.co.za).
This means that the farms supplying this meat will be audited to these standards each year. This makes the farms accountable to the principles of holism that Kalahari 100% Grass Fed Beef is built upon.
On Keith’s farm as well as the surrounding farms that supply Kalahari 100% Grass Fed Beef, cattle have on-going access to pasture from the rich and fertile veldt. Cattle are wholly veldt reared .There are no feedlots, so grain bales, no barns and minimal human interference. Where man and cow do meet the interaction contains an element of respect that is humbling to witness.
Cattle, grass, veldt and soil exist here in a relationship that is as nature intended; all life dependent on the health of the other; nature soulfully intertwined into a balance so delicate, it is entirely sacred.
Keith Harvey, the farmer behind this incredible oasis is a farmer who farms according to the principles of holistic management and dedicates his life to teaching others about the miracle of nature whilst he proves that farming without chemicals, pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human interference and grain, is feasible, rewarding and achievable.
His farm has been ‘chemical-free’ for 20 years now. There are no pesticides or artificial fertilizers in this area and no tarred roads in either which means no informal settlements or industry to pollute the water ways.
Most of the farms in this region and the ones who will be involved in supplying Kalahari 100% Grass Fed Beef’ are farming cattle naturally. Once you enter this region and move away from the conventional grain farms, the bush suddenly comes alive, there’s life and there’s veldt and there’s unspoilt soil that hasn’t been ploughed and had all the life taken out of it to grow grain. The contrast between this and the deadness of the grain farms you see on route to this region is the difference felt between misery and joy.
I travelled up to meet Keith late July 2012. I left altered and deeply rooted to a purpose.
Keith explained holism as a view that natural systems are a whole, and cannot be understood by viewing them as a collection of component parts. It’s an applied understanding of the delicate balance and interplay of all components of nature’s cycles. Holism sees the work of a successful farmer as one of a steward of the land. Not there to dominate nature’s processes or to interfere with them, but to humbly steward nature as a supportive custodian.
The relationship between man and animal in this context is meant to be respectful and equal. All aspects of life; man, human, soil, air, water all are seen as equal to each other with a part to play in the preservation and evolution of each species.
It all sounds rather idealistic on paper. That is until you reach Keith’s farm.
When a person meets their destiny and finds a way to communicate that moment of that type of personal impact, successfully, usually a great piece of poetry or prose is born. I thus feel intimidated by the magnitude of what I want to convey, at how profound my introduction to holistic management was and how it rooted me into a sense of purpose and meaning about my life.
Spending time with Keith was an altogether religious experience. What I mean by that, is that if religion is defined as a system of belief that asserts (no matter the difference in the type of belief) that there is a larger intelligence behind the design and process of life, the knowledge that the study and practice of holism and organic agriculture in its truest sense gives, is that there is indeed the grandest intelligence in nature.
Nothing exists by chance alone.
Holism holds up a microscope to the intricate display of purpose and connection that exists between every aspect of life. There is no other conclusion to draw for me than the fact that it is the clearest evidence of the most incredible undefinable wisdom that underpins our existence.
To understand the cycles of nature, is to truly understand that everything individual has a purpose and that the purpose is to enhance collective life. The meaning and sense I get is that we are all connected, all of life is connected, that you cannot harm one without harming all and that everything has purpose and a place. I literally spent 5 hours writing notes while I listened to Keith explain the intricacies and delicacies of the Kalahari veldt and how his job is to support it in order to provide cattle with the most fertile grass, veldt and shrubs.
This encounter with Keith and Vryburg came after 3 years of running an organic online business in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs. This sense of purpose really should have been born prior. After all I was a food activist desperately passionate about connecting people to their food and to the soil that births it. It is almost as if any prior sense I had of purpose around food and organic farming served as a prelude to that moment, served to set the scene and predict the arrival of purpose.
There was a certainty I left Keith Harvey with that I hadn’t experienced before.
The first impactful prelude to that moment of destiny happened on a farm visit with Konrad Hauptfleisch, the then COO of the Bryanston Organic and Natural Market. I was green in the game, wet behind the ears and eager to understand as much as I could about organic agriculture. I will never forget watching him dig through some soil, turn over a worm and burst open with excitement at finding life in the soil. That made a deep impression on me, that was the first I remember of truly ‘getting it’, that organic farming is about celebrating the cycle of life.
The second time it happened when I read ‘Look To The Land’ by Lord Northbourne, written in 1936 and one of the earlier cases made for organic agriculture. Apparently it was he himself who coined the term. The last 3 paragraphs of that book that I wish everybody would read, served as another prelude to that moment of destiny.
I read this text at a time when I was listening to all sorts of arguments about what organic really meant in the marketing arena, when there was heated debate in the local sector about legislation and organic certification and which standards were right and which weren’t. When I met Keith Harvey, I saw the living, breathing example of Lord Northbourne’s philosophy of farming. I saw in action what it means for a farmer to serve as a steward and custodian of the land.
When I left Keith’s farm, I had a moment where I knew precisely what the rest of my life’s work was about. I had never experienced such certainty about my purpose before. It was a feeling more solid than concrete. I turned to my 19 year old son who had travelled to the farm with me in the car on the return home and said ‘Daniel, if I spend the left of my life working for farmers like Keith, then my life will have been worth it.’
This is what holistic management will always mean for me.
Just prior to this encounter, I came to a decision to get finance to fund the growth to take the business to the next level, and to a place where it could afford the logistical support required to make its next stage of growth.
I was also talking to a retailer passionate about understanding more about the organic food movement and it’s under-belly with a view to representing the best farms in the future through a new retail concern.
We found a way to do something together and at that point Gary Jackson and his brother Neil became partners in our efforts to bring Kalahari 100% Grass Fed Beef to market. They would help me with the logistics and their experience and I would share everything I knew about the organic Gauteng scene.
It was a fantastic start to what has since been a 3 month journey to get Kalahari Beef available in Gauteng. Gary’s passion for grass-fed beef has seen us through some difficult weeks. If I didn’t have somebody as passionate as me about this beef, I’m not sure I’d have gotten through this sanity in check.
That middle layer that sits between the consumer and the farm and is about transport and deboning plants, packaging, volumes, profit and loss is where you have to call on passion to get you through.
We’re in it now and committed. We’ve paid some heavy school fees thus far in our learning and have learnt about how the eternal challenge is in carving out an efficient road between farm and fork.
We’ve learnt that all the best farming in the world counts for nothing without an educated consumer, an efficient and professional deboning plant and a plan to balance out the carcass when the consumer wants 10% of it in the form of steak.
There is work to be done to educate the customer to understand that holistic management means due respect being given to every element that supports life and takes its place in the perfect cycle of life and death. That to participate in it gracefully and in a way truly reflective of the health we all crave for ourselves and our planet, we need to interact with farming and with animals differently.
My job is to get through this transition of working out how to do the cattle justice through sticking with the logistical challenges and getting more efficient at focused consumer education so that the consumer changes the landscape by supporting farmers like Keith.
It’s been 3 months and whilst we’re not at break even yet, I have gained treasures larger than money could ever buy.
It’s difficult truly in this modern day rat race of ours to be reminded while we’re surrounded by concrete, mechanics and tasks that there is sense and intelligence behind nature. We are reminded when we visit the bush or get out in the country or when we face the joy of a birth or the pain of loss in death. We feel so humbled in those times because we are reminded of life’s fragility and intelligence, that there is a process to it all, a cyclical and rhythmic on-going of life and death. Each death is meant to feed and fuel the next cycle of growth. Holistic management indeed connects every manifestation of life to a grander purpose.
It certainly connected me to mine.
My introduction to holistic management through Keith Harvey and Kalahari 100% Grass Fed Beef has taught me that when animal, man and land live in harmony, each enriching the other through their lives, we’ll all be living in a holistically managed world, managed by the hand of a creative intelligence whose sense can be trusted.
It embedded my faith in my work as a passionate food activist on the side of those custodians of the earth. I am forever grateful and commit to learning more in order to educate the consumer to change the context of conscious eating to one of true, holistic nourishment.

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