Spier’s food gardens were first planted in September 2013 and have been significantly expanded in 2020 under the guidance of Megan McCarthy, an expert in using eco-friendly and regenerative techniques to grow food. No pesticides or artificial fertilisers are used in the cultivation of fruit, herbs and vegetables. Much effort is spent to ensure the soil is healthy so that the plants have a robust immune system to withstand attacks by pests. Worm compost and weekly foliar sprays are used to boost nutrients. Companion planting and crop rotation are practised. Not only does this improve the flavour of vegetables; it also reduces pest problems and helps keep the soil healthy.
The bounty grown at Spier is used in its Spier’s restaurants, sold through Spier’s online shop and at the Spier Farm Cafe Store. During the lockdown, produce was contributed to 450 vulnerable families in nearby communities as part of relief packs. These packs were supplemented with seedlings and guidance on how to grow food. Eleven families in Lynedoch have started food gardens to provide their families and community with nutritious food.
At the beginning of lockdown in March 2020, in partnership with the Sustainability Institute, Spier recruited thirteen local community members to increase food production on the farm and learn how to grow their own fresh, nutritious produce at home. Megan provided hands-on training in demonstration plots at Spier, ably assisted by Lonwabo Mfenguza, a graduate of the Biodynamic Agricultural Association of South Africa (BDAASA) two-year course on the holistic growing of food.
McCarthy and her team recently created a “food forest” (currently ⅓ha, with plans to expand to a full hectare). This is home to a dazzling array of fruit trees (including avo, mango, citrus, apples). In the beds surrounding them, are medicinal plants and floral plants for cut flowers sold at the Spier Farm Cafe Store, which also sells an assortment of indigenous plants grown in the Spier nursery, and by local women growers.