I was delighted to discover that I could order veggies from the Compagniesdrift garden, so got myself onto their mailing list and I now receive a weekly list of their seasonal offerings. I’ve enjoyed their delicious butternut and gem squashes, so was keen to find out more about the garden.
And discovered of course, that the force behind the veggie garden is their CEO, Ilse Ruthford, who won Western Cape’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ national female entrepreneur award in the agro-processing category in 2014. Ilse decided to use her award winnings to start a vegetable garden on the farm, so that its community could benefit from its fresh produce.
And now, a few years later, they have put up a vegetable tunnel, and been through some interesting and expensive learnings, what with a tomato crop which looked fabulous and the next minute the entire crop had died! I know the feeling… gardening is not for the faint-hearted!
I have only come to enjoy vegetables late in my life and one of the challenges they have faced has been to introduce fresh veggies into the diet of the community living on the farm. They are used to eating traditional food, ‘rys, vleis and aartappels or pap’, so shifting away from that to having greens has not always been met with the enthusiasm Ilse expected.
Changing one’s eating habits is not an easy thing. The vegetable garden at Compagniesdrift however has instigated a few changes in the residents at the farm, and surprisingly, it is the older generation who are more keen to experiment than the younger crow.
Introducing people to new tastes takes time and Ilse uses new recipes with interesting flavours and if it is relatively simple, people are happy to explore with it a bit.
The garden is enthusiastically tended daily by Erika Beukes, who was an Early Childhood teacher in her previous life, and after being retrenched, found that she really enjoyed the garden work, and finds herself having long conversations with herself while digging and clearing and planting. Erika is keen to learn more about gardening and farming, and has done some courses through the Dept of Agriculture already.
She is joined 3 times a week be retiree Hendrik (Oupa) Smith, who lives on the Meerlust farm next door and brings a great determination and introduces new seeds and veggies. He showed me a gleaming purple aubergine, which is being nurtured for Hannes Myburgh, who has been coveting it since its arrival!
Aubergines are new to the garden, so it is another one which will need to find its way to the hearts of the community!
The melons are famous I believe, with a regular customer coming all the way from Phillipi to buy it so that she can make her own jam (‘sy lê dit in’ – as they say in Afrikaans.) The maketaan or waatlemoen konfyt is almost always found in a good Cape kitchen, and enjoyed with bread with its sweet syrup dripping off the side!
The garden is not just bringing fresh veggies to the residents, but also bringing in a little income and you can get on to their mailing list to find out what is in season and you can collect your seasonal veggies on a Thursday.
Send an email to their reception to get on to the mailing list and you too could pick up extremely well-priced, just picked fresh veggies from them.
Article by Judy Brower – wine.co.za