Welcome to the (Y)CSA, moving forward with ‘Planting Thoughts’

As you may/may not know I’m an urban farmer, I LOVE what I do, but there is but one of me and a nation that needs feeding, no easy task and you’d laugh at the pay, no, really.

Currently I manage, service and farm over an acre of arable land on various urban farms around the greater Cape Town area, some private, others communal.

The produce I grow is made available to local communities through our weekly farmers market providing both the public and local eateries with fresh, seasonally grown food and we also donate to a local soup kitchen and feeding scheme.

The problem is even on an acre of land I can only feed a handful of people, and it’s tough because I used to have to hand deliver the produce to local eateries/markets and often I harvest food that doesn’t sell, and I hate wastage, more than most having watched them grow up from literally dirt.

I’ve now handed over my weekly deliveries to the lovely folks at Simply Wholesome who now offer fresh veggies and fruit on top of their wonderful chicken, eggs, preserves and butter offerings. This alone has freed up a day a week for me, but I need to free up even more time for some paid work to help support my family and to best utilize my time and resources.

So I’ve decided to move towards a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) weekly box scheme.

Essentially customers buy into collecting a weekly vegetable box of locally, organically grown food rather than buying the odd vegetable at a weekly market.

This helps me, the farmer, as it allows me to know exactly what to harvest and plant, reduces wastage and also motivates me to get my hands dirty, literally.

It’s also a great way for customers to have access to local, clean food, devoid of pesticides, herbicides & chemical fertilizers, it’s grown locally so it further reduces the food miles and your carbon footprint and it’s FRESH, as in picked on the day!

It’s not a full service facility, you can’t pick and choose you vegetables, it’s governed by the seasons. It’s not a supermarket, so yes you may end up with a weekly bunch of beetroot for a month and will probably be sick of them, but it promotes seasonality and inspires you to be inventive with your cooking and also refines the long lost skill of preservation and curing.

BUT collectively everyone has a say in what I grow, season permitting, but if no body likes radishes I’m not going to grow them and if you all want garlic cloves to stave off ridiculous Twilight lovers, then I’ll grow them, get the picture?

I’d like to start off the CSA with 10 boxes a week, and ideally would prefer to search within my social circle of foodies, artists and artisans who appreciate the ideology, good produce and are willing to exchange ideas, recipes and thoughts on local foods.

At the moment I have aubergines, chillies, green peppers, spinach, carrots, radishes, beetroots, courgettes, tomatoes, mixed salad, celery and various herbs in the ground, so a pack would have a mix of 5-6 of those each week and cost R50 a week.

As we move into winter it will be spinach, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, leeks, broad beans, mixed salad, herbs etc.

I’m thinking a mid-week pick-up is best, probably a Wednesday, as it takes you over the weekend into the next.

Anyone keen to join me in this venture? Ideally you’d live in the Southern Suburbs and be willing to collect either from my home or a suitable collection point, you’d need to pick it up on the day as some of the veggies will need refrigeration.

The sad news is that it probably means that I’ll need to retreat from my much loved market, but it will ultimately free up another day of the week for me, which I need to do.

I’d then also like to focus on EDUCATION where I feel my skills are best used. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me if I’d run a ‘Grow Your Own’ workshop, and I have done so on an ad hoc basis, but I need to pay more attention to it and make it a monthly offering.

I’m thinking a 3-hour primer run on Saturday, mid morning, once or twice a month. A minimum of 5 participants, max of 10 at R250.00 per person including tea/coffee/cake on sight at the Constantia based farm. If you make a booking of 5 or more I’ll give you a 20% discount, it’s a great way to take a class with friends/mates.

I’ll be also tailoring it to two camps, the home gardener and what I call chefs 101.

Chefs have different needs and their course will focus on how best to use their own space to grow vegetables as well as looking at making organic vegetables more profitable for them and will also allow them access to the farm to pick their own vegetables/herbs etc.

I’ll also be moving away from offering private landscaping services, I barely have enough time to tend to my existing clients and will move them to a retainer based service and then will focus the rest of my time to one off installations and creative projects around food production, there are already plans to launch one at next months Together Market at the Tjing Tjing Bar.

Lastly I’d like to offer opportunities to bring urbanites closer to their food through a volunteer program, for those that don’t have access to a garden and want to get hands on, come donate a hour or two a week and learn about growing and cultivating your own crops.

Wow, ok, that’s a lot to take in, even for me, but I’d love to see/hear your thoughts on things.

If you are keen on joining the CSA, a workshop or even volunteering, let me know!

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7 Responses to Welcome to the (Y)CSA, moving forward with ‘Planting Thoughts’

  1. Betty Bake says:

    I’d be interested in the once a week pick up box of veggies for R50 :) sounds cool!

  2. Pingback: Cape Town urban farmer moves towards CSA model — City Farmer News

  3. Vamp says:

    I’m in too Matt, def one box and maybe a couple more, just need to chat to friends, will conf asap :)

  4. Karen says:

    Hey Matt (friend of Paula from Vamp)

    Super keen esp if pick up is Larder. Done these boxes before and love the seasonality (and the weekly surprise) and you’re right – it helps you become more creative with your cooking. But for me convenience w.r.t. pickup is key and Larder is a super idea.

  5. Dorothy says:

    Hi Matt, I would be keen on doing one of your home gardening workshops

  6. Linda says:

    Hi Matt

    I am another friend of Paula’s, I would love to take a weekly seasonal box and the larder is ideal for me too.

    Looking forward to enjoying the fruits of your labour!


  7. Susan Hill says:

    Also keen to take you up on the journey; pick up is great…super idea….let me know where?

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