Mercury Food and Wine articles No.8

This is the article for today.

Handmade connectedness

Broadleaze Farm stall

A family were looking at potted herbs on my stand at the Karkloof Farmers market the other week when the father inquired what the organic label meant. I started telling them about the basic organic principles when his little son exclaimed, “Oh, you mean it’s hand made”.  He could not have phrased it better.
This incident made me look on the concept of Farmers markets in a new light. I started looking around at the other stall holders through a whole new lens.

I reflected on what the boys observation meant for my own stall. All the fresh produce, seedlings and plants on the stall are grown on our farm according to organic methods. This way of growing works with nature and in many respects has as much art as science in it’s method. There is minimal mechanisation and no reliance on industrial inputs such as chemicals. “Hand made” was certainly accurate in my case.
I looked over at my neighbours stall stacked with loaves of bread made by his own hand. To the side of me a local restaurateur is selling pasta made on the spot. There are a few stalls selling a range of cheeses made on their own farms. Over the way are pork sausages like you have never tasted before that more than justify the time and effort put into them.
There are a number of stallholders making breakfasts that are certainly not run of the mill. They range from a good old fashioned english breakfast to a Mexican chilli beef bagel. Lets not forget a good organic, fair trade coffee. All are mostly using ingredients sourced locally, if not from the other stallholders. The little boys observation most certainly applied to most of the other stall holders.

The original concept of a Farmers Market was not as many still think, a place of cheap pricing because you are purchasing direct from the farmer, but rather that the farmer would get the benefit of the full retail price. The Farmers Market, however has developed further. It has become a venue peculiarly suited to smaller artisan farmers or producers. Typically such folk are proud of their products and welcome the chance to engage directly with the public. The better run markets focused on the concept of real foods and encouraged local stallholders who mainly sold their own produce.
Farmers markets provide an intimacy between those involved in producing the food and those who eat the food. This is the aspect that I most enjoy about having a stand at the market. The interaction between the farmer and the customer is most important. It gives us the necessary feedback but most importantly it connects us. I like to know who is enjoying the food we produce and the customer certainly enjoys knowing who grew the food they eat. It is this connectedness that is missing from the modern industrial food chain.
Because of this connectedness and intimacy a Farmers Market can become a great social venue, a chance to meet with friends and to connect with those who put their soul into the food they produce. It is great place to take children, whether to enjoy a breakfast or to help with the shopping. The environment at our market is secure enough for kids to interact on their own. I enjoy the earnest young faces when they purchase seedlings for their gardens. My Border Collie, Holley, certainly enjoys their attention.


Yes, that little boy was right. not only is the produce “hand made” but the Karkloof Market is as well.

The Karkloof Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from 7am to 11am. It is on Karkloof Road, 2,6km from Howick.


About Rob Symons

My name is Rob Symons. I live in Pietermaritzburg, kwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. MuthiMuthi is my Zulu nickname which means tall tree. I am an Organic Farmer and an environmentalist. I live and work on Broadleaze Farm in the Mkondeni valley on the eastern outskirts of Pietermaritzburg.
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