In March 2019, Spier partnered with Woolworths and the Sustainability Institute and its AgroEcology Academy to launch the Living Soils Community Learning Farm.

Based on land at Spier, this learning and demonstration farm produces nutritious food using eco-friendly regenerative farming methods while empowering a new generation of farmers with the skills and experience needed to address food insecurity in local communities.

Rirhandzu Marivate is the farm’s project manager, who has overseen the sterling efforts of the farm’s first three interns — all women originally from the Eastern Cape: Phutuma Mgu, Vuyolwethu Zicina, Thandiwe Mtyingizani. After clearing the land and preparing it using agroecological methods to regenerate the soil with beneficial microorganisms and nutrients, the trio planted a wide range of vegetables. The first harvest was in November 2019; by March 2020, an astonishing 1700 kilograms of produce had been harvested – from just under a hectare of land. This bounty was used to prepare meals prepared for approximately 200 impoverished and at-risk children from the Lynedoch community.

Following the successful conclusion of the three’s internships, they have remained to take on leadership positions, mentoring the seven new interns that joined the farm in 2020.

If successful, this pilot approach to nurturing a new generation of farmers could be replicated in other areas of South Africa, boosting food security and bringing health and wellbeing to communities and their environments.