Bringing Home the Organic Bacon

This is my 17th article in the Mercury Food and Wine supplement.

I have been heartened recently by an obvious surge in interest in Organic produce in KZN. I have had numerous calls enquiring about how to source organic food. This has also been experienced by the stores I deal with. This is pleasing as I have battled for some time to create an awareness of the benefits of choosing organic. However my heart also sinks when I get these enquiries as I have to tell the eager voice on the line that there is not much produce out there. I feel guilty as I am a farmer and I feel I am letting the side down.


The truth is it is not that easy to farm organically. I use the term “farm” as opposed to “grow” to make a distinction between a home or community garden and an operation that has to function as a business entity. The aim of growing organically is produce healthy food in a sustainable fashion within a natural ecosystem. Farming organically adds another dimension, that of the human economy and system of legal obligation. Bonds have to be repaid, rates paid and staff have to be paid a decent wage in cash. The cash has to flow so produce has to always be on shop shelves. This naturally means focusing on growing the most popular produce that produces the best return.


Personally I would love to grow just about any herb or vegetable that could be grown. I find it exciting seeing a large selection of crops growing. I am fascinated by the myriad of forms that crops ripen to. I have just picked an Atlantic Giant pumpkin that I have been nurturing. At 14kg it is a baby. The world record is about 400kg. This is one of the pleasures of growing, but however it is not farming. It would be difficult to generate a good cash income out of Atlantic Giant pumpkins.


Atlantic Giant Pumpkin
(Photo by Ryan Giles)

I still have plans to have a general garden where I could produce a diverse crop range for a select market, but it will have to ride on the back of the bread and butter crops.


This past month of February was a hard one on the farm. Our total rainfall was only 30mm for the whole month, and on top of that we had days with temperatures over 38C. This reduced the harvest of even the bread and butter crops. All in all this is a lean time. However the rains are sort of back and the days are cooler so we should have an improvement.


One thing I have learnt about being a farmer is that you never sit feeling sorry for yourself, you get on and plant! So that’s what we are doing. I am looking forward to filling the shelves soon, and hopefully next season get my pumpkins over 100kg.


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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