Travel, Gardens

Urban Goes Green: Part III. Umthunzi Farming Community

Grounded on the principles of community upliftment and support, Umthunzi Farming Community endeavours to provide a platform for small-scale farmers in the Cape Town area.
Valentina Nicol

Grounded on the principles of community upliftment and support, 'Umthunzi' (meaning 'shade' in IsiXhosa) is a symbol of the support that Umthunzi Farming Community aims to provide to the soil, the plants, the farmers and the people of Cape Town.

The young and passionate team – pioneered by Emma Hosking and Kim Bloch – was established in March 2018, and supports urban farmers to grow, sell and eat high-quality, seasonal and organic vegetables, while simultaneously improving consumer consciousness through education and awareness of the local food-supply system. In essence, Umthunzi aims to be a link that binds key players in the supply chain, from seed to consumer.

Visiting the team on packing day – when all produce is sorted based on orders and placed into respective harvest bags for pick-up (choose from Hail Pizza @ Clarke's on Bree Street, A Touch of Madness in Observatory and The Shop in Three Anchor Bay), you really do feel a sense of gratification, and connection. The farmers, each presenting their weekly load of veggies, beam with pride at the bounty they've grown and nurtured themselves. There is a sense of love and community in the way Kim, Emma, the volunteers and the farmers interact: it's a combination of respect, gratitude and support. Everyone gets their chance to share their goods – and their stories. 

Simple things that you may take for granted when stocking up on weekly groceries at your regular supermarket become significant when the farmers share their stories of loss – of frostbitten spinach, or mite-infested fennel, or worse, waking up to all six heads of cabbage – that week's livelihood – stolen from their smallholder farm in the Cape Flats. Moreover, these farmers don't own their own scales, so if they're expected to supply 3kg of spinach, they're not always able to 'guess' the correct amount. To this end, Umthunzi is educating farmers as to what 3kg 'looks' like. The end goal is to provide these scales – but, baby steps. Until then, the focus is on growth and education. 

Umthunzi's ultimate vision is to create a more sustainable, ethical and transparent local food system, thereby increasing the sustainable livelihood of farmers and access to nourishing food for all. Currently, the organisation helps and supports 30 small-scale farmers across the Cape Flats, including areas such as Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Nyanga and Mitchell’s Plain. Farmers have gardens that range from close to 1ha of land to small patches next to their shacks. And we, as a community, can support them...

Place your weekly veg order for a venerable 'pot luck' of goodies and have fun in the kitchen using produce you may not have. And rejoice in the difference this considered purchase can have on the lives of many.

Umthunzi works entirely on a trust system: order your weekly veg from Mondays to Wednesdays until 2pm for allotted pick-up times on Thursday. Follow Umthunzi on Instagram for updates or to place your order, as well as donate towards new scales at bit.ly/umthunzi.