Saturday, December 3, 2022

Enjoying the process of growing food

I went on an amazing quest to trace backwards our food origins, trying to really get a feel of where the dinner plate comes from beyond the supermarket shelves.

Fortunately for me, my first stop turned out to be on of those one-stop all-in-one sister farms in a small village just outside Ramotswa in the south east of Botswana called Mogonye.
To put the cherry on the cake, these farms are locally owned.

I discovered for the first time that Mogonye is actually inside what seemed to be a horse shoe of mountains with amazing landscapes, all that and the fact that the farms had everything from tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, garlic and parsley to turkeys, goats, gees, chickens and guinea fowls.
I spent just one day there with a very cheerful team of farm workers who were only too willing to share bags of knowledge to my great benefit.

Just as we began to fear that they faced extinction, such farms started erupting again. People are now starting to farm in their backyards to supply their daily diet while others do it on a larger and more commercial scale.

Since the current trend is commercial farming, I decided that Mr and Mrs Peloewetse’s Vege Planet running side by side with Desert Natural Farm were ideal to zoom in on.

My one and only agenda item for the day was to spend it with Batswana who really enjoy this beautiful process of nature and have given themselves the chance and space to nurture and turn their passion into a lifestyle.

Mr and Mrs Peloewetse left me in the trusted hands of their Farm Manager, Mr Zaba.
I felt ever so fortunate to be allowed to inquisitively follow him around on what seemed to be just an ordinary day for him as he so effortlessly carried out his day to day farm chores, while, in contrast, I was busy having the time of my life.

I put myself in his shoes for one day, appreciating that as much as they made it seem so easy and enjoyable there had to be challenges alongside the pleasures that come with choosing to see through this seemingly fragile endeavour of growing life to continue the food chain.

Mr Zaba highlighted that what he likes most about his job is the fact that he gets to interact with a lot of people who give him advice along the way and the feedback he gets helps him grow even better food.

He also expressed how everyday he feels very privileged that what they do benefits the country’s economy to a large extent.

“We feed the country, and that gives us a great sense of purpose,” he said. “Our food is very organically grown, nothing is genetically modified.”

I was very impressed when he told me that they supply giants like Choppies, Shoprite and Spar and also stated how supportive they are in that they take their endeavour seriously.

Farmers are so fortunate to be spending their lives in such beautiful greenery with minimal pollution, I generally find the great outdoors to be ideal for relaxation so, unlike people who work in the city, they don’t have to go far to look for a retreat.

Although there are so many joys that come with this food growing process, it is worth noting that you have to be very hands on to reap the benefits.

This means passion, commitment and perseverance are key ingredients, especially when the going gets tough just like in any other business. I also couldn’t help but notice how in love with nature farmers are, especially as I watched them carefully cultivate their broccoli seedlings as if they were tending to vulnerable humans.

I imagine if more Batswana were to take farming seriously and really commercialise their farms, we would eventually need less imports where food is concerned.

Clearly the country is still thirsty for young and upcoming farmers and it makes sense to be optimistic and believe that the situation will improve over time.

I was impressed by Vege Planet Farm’s diversity in what they grow. It was very evident that their farming is so out of the box. I never thought a day would come when parsley, garlic and egg plant would grow on Botswana soil.

Batswana are making progress every day and such farms are indeed worthy of praise.

Mr and Mrs Peloewetse got their start up capital from the Citizen Entrepreneurship Development Agency and continue to be mentored by the Local Enterprise Authority. They are not shy to ask for advice from farms that are more developed than their own.

The forward thought of their lives post retirement when they no longer have the energy to work has inspired them to carry out a project of such magnitude without looking back.

I can only hope that the generations of Batswana that will come after them will be inspired to believe that they too can follow suit and even do better.

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