I have a beautiful story for you. It’s going to make your heart warm and your belief in this beautiful country of ours that much stronger. It’s also a story about a garden right behind Ellis Park Stadium, if you can believe it.
I received an email 2 days ago inviting me to visit an inner-city organic vegetable garden, the premise being: ‘on Madiba Day, over 300 volunteers worked with the Bambanani Food and Herb Co-operative to make their vision of an inner city vegetable garden a reality. Just over 8000 seedlings were planted. Now they are ready to be harvested. Join us for the unique opportunity to pick organically grown vegetables fresh from the garden.’
From conception to reality
Both my mind and my heart were blown away: I was privileged enough to meet Maria, Amon and Refilwe, the three beautiful human beings who brought this project, with the help of many sponsors, from conception to reality.
46 Bertrams Road used to be a local bowling green that flourished with activity in the 1980’s, but in the heart of inner city Johannesburg in the early 2000’s this was no longer the case. Maria was trained as a social worker and worked with The City of Johannesburg, whilst working with government she came up with the idea of transforming the now derelict bowling green into a vegetable garden, and The City of Johannesburg gave her permission.
Refilwe also worked as a social worker, which is how she met Maria and wanted to join her in her quest to create a garden in the city centre. Amon, on the other hand, was working as a security guard and, walking passed the garden on route home one day, had a surge of nostalgia taking him back to his childhood in Limpopo where they grew vegetables all-year-round for their dinner table. He tells me that they were neither wealthy nor poor, but that they understood the value in growing your own food: ‘I love working with plants, I always have, but my passion lies in working with vegetables and here I am able to do that.’
A few years later, on Mandela Day, many of the stakeholders and subsidiaries got together with the sponsors and volunteers to put into place proper irrigation and plant the donated seedlings in organic compost. And now they are ready to be harvested!
You can go and choose your own lettuces, spinach, onions and herbs at present with beetroot, cabbages and carrots hot on their heals, they will pick them from the earth, wash the roots and put them into your bag for you, all the while happily telling you about their love of this garden and the joy it brings them.
You need to visit this place. You will be humbled by the passion and kindness of Maria, Amon and Refilwe, you will be amazed at the quality and the price of what they are offering. You will be back again and again, as will I.
Amon wants to start a Saturday market there – getting people in from the suburbs to share in the splendour of their own inner city Babylon. He wants people to bring their own produce to sell, to have children frolicking between the cos and the butter lettuce, teaching them to appreciate and experience the taste of something fresh from the earth.
To anyone out there who has connections with people who might be able to donate seedlings to this amazing cause, they need: green and red pepper, tomato, aubergine, rosemary and other herbs to plant in November for the next crop.
All leafy veg: bunches of spinach and lettuces sell for R10 and the onions and the herbs are R5 a bunch.
Bring your own bag and be ready to smile.
46 Bertrams Road, Bertrams, JHB
(Opposite Ellis Park Arena)
Contact: Amon Maluleke or Maria on 076 873 9886/082 464 9507
Monday to Saturday. All year round
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