Vegkop Polyculture Farm is a 1ha test farm of a 2ha farm model of the future in the Philippi Horticultural Area.
The farm is a community-led initiative born out of the struggles of the community. We are modelling a unique polyculture farm that seek to integrate a diversity of crops with the small animals and fish. Polyculture farming at a fundamental level aims to mimic nature and natural cycles- nutrients, carbon and water.
The Vegkop farmers traditional and experiential learning and knowledge production is exactly located in the management of complex and multiple production systems, and the management of the on-farm and off-farm ecosystem. An example of the latter is the ‘waterdraaer’ or aquifer in the soil.
Our farming is based on the philosophy of the Watermans of Camissa. Watermans farming has its roots in the rich tradition and culture of the Khoi and San communities of Camissa who for hundreds of years prior to the colonial settler farmers, based their livelihood on the Camissa ecosystem- the land, rivers, wetlands, aquifers, indigenous plants and from animal husbandry.
Following on the tradition of the Watermans, Vegkop farmers live off and are stewards of the land, given by the Creator as an ‘amana’ [trust] in safe-keeping for future generations to come.
The Watermans philosophy of farming is based on three principles;
Care for nature
Grow healthy food
Grow self-sufficient farming livelihoods
At the root of the Watermans farming is the ‘waterdraaer’, the Cape Flats Aquifer- the source of life for farmers, the farming community and of the city.
Watermans farming seeks to not live in or recreate the past but that our history, struggles and our ancestors teach the way we address the contemporary challenges we face as a community.
The farm had many previous lives including a plant nursery, a kennel, an informal dump site and a hydroponic tomato farm. The farm went through a 12-month soil rehabilitation process coinciding with the UN Year of the soils in 2015. The farm is now cultivated as a polyculture farm and learning and knowledge production hub.
Vegkop farm’s immediate objectives are to;
to grow the model/learning farm to become fully self-sufficient by 2023
to grow skilled farmers to farm on their own and grow the small farmer support network
to recruit new cycle of learner farmers annually
Produce is sold to the local community at the farm gate. The farm plan to expand sales to other markets in the future.
To grow our farming roots in pursuit of freedom, peace, knowledge, regeneration and self-sufficiency.
To model the 2ha polyculture farm of the future applicable and replicable as an innovative, SMART land reform model for peri-urban farming in the Philippi Horticultural Area and elsewhere.
To standardize, simplify and communicate applied regenerative farming practice
To grow healthy and culturally appropriate food and the right to define our own food and farming systems
To strengthen the farm as the farmer to farmer learning hub, combining and applying indigenous and local knowledge with science
To unify and harmonize the relationship between farmer and nature, alert to the urgent need for climate change resilience.
1. Farming as a way of cultivating good soil, good food, good community and good character
2. The learnings out of the struggle for freedom and self-determination
3. The virtues of mutual responsibility, patience, perseverance, creativity and intelligence.
4. Solidarity with local and global small-scale farmers
All farmworkers have some knowledge and history of farming. Farmers learn through experiential learning which is tracked monthly. Guided by Farmer Nazeer, Monday morning workshops frame the week, and include various global best practice videos, debates and guests. Once a year there is a broader soil workshop, as well as various (farm) design workshops and Farm-builds; throughout the year the campaign centre on the farm is visited by university students and activists.
Our Learner Farmers gain experiential knowledge on all aspects of farming including farm design, plant propagation, regenerative production techniques, compost and recycling, production record keeping, basic bookkeeping, value adding and marketing. They engage critically in the politics of food and farming.
Progress is prompted via monthly reflection by learner farmers who, via reflection (and a questionnaire) connect their experience to theory. They gain insight into themselves and their interactions with their work. Learner farmers consider how their new skills are transferable to their own farm in the future.
Farmers will continue their learning and livelihood journey on land in the PHA and elsewhere. They will form part of a broader network of farmers who practise, learn and teach regenerative polyculture farming.
Our 2023 farm objective:
to grow the learning farm to become fully self-sufficient by 2023
to have skilled farmers to farm on their own and grow the farmer network
to recruit a new cycle of learner farmers for the 2024 cycle