On the eve of the lockdown, Spier staff prepared boxes of food for 450 underprivileged families in surrounding communities to provide nourishment for those who might struggle to access food during the three weeks at home.
While this will help to keep hunger at bay in the short-term, we know that a longer-term solution to address food security is necessary. In partnership with the Sustainability Institute, we have recruited 13 members of the local community (predominantly from the Lynedoch area) to speed up food production at Spier and to learn how to grow their own fresh, nutritious produce at home.
“If people learn how to grow their own food, they will never go hungry again,” says Megan McCarthy who oversees the Spier Food Garden. Over the next three months, she will be providing hands-on training in a demonstration garden at Spier. An expert in using eco-friendly techniques to grow food, she is being ably assisted by Lonwabo Mfenguza. Lonwabo is sharing the skills he has gained as a student enrolled in the two-year course on the holistic growing of food that is offered by the Biodynamic Agricultural Association of South Africa (BDAASA). He also has experience running his own food garden with friends in Khayelitsha.
In addition to growing their gardening skills at Spier, the 13 young growers also receive a nutritious cooked lunch daily. The organic produce harvested in the demonstration garden will be distributed regularly to hungry households in the community. As the days shorten and grow cooler, Megan is focusing on growing nutritious winter staples in the coming weeks. These include carrot, cabbage, broccoli, beans, peas, spinach, beetroot, turnips, leeks, onions, lettuce, and kale.
This is just the beginning, though: an abandoned lemon orchard is being nursed back to health while a grove of olives will, in time, provide oil. Moringa trees have also been planted: a true “super food”, their leaves offer abundant vitamins (including B, A and C) as well as minerals like iron and magnesium.
Other members of the Spier team are contributing in various ways. Spier Nursery head Wilton Sikhosana has provided space in the greenhouse for seedling production. The Spier winemaking team have provided grape biomass for compost; there have also been donations of manure and hay from Farmer Angus for mulching.
While the vegetable garden is allowed to operate as an essential service during the 21-day SA government lockdown, health and safety remains paramount. Stringent measures are in place include protective clothing, masks and hand sanitiser.