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Grow food and become a revolutionary

Updated: Jun 3

Many people are trying to grow their own food during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Planning, networking, researching, planting, composting and looking for land are familiar struggles for some of us. For others, the practice of growing food is brand new territory.

Vandana Shiva, author and activist, reminds us that the potential power of food can only be unlocked by us and that once this power is unleashed, great change will follow; indeed, she tells us that “growing your own food is a revolutionary act.”


So what exactly does this mean? History tells us a great deal about how home growing has transformed from a daily necessity to a subversive statement. I remember growing up in my grandparents homestead among chillies, chutney and chickens where many knew how to grow at least basic necessities or had easy access to hawkers or ‘smouse’. This began to change in the sixties as the Apartheid Group Areas Act forcibly removed families off the land causing massive urban sprawl turning farmlands into townships for black and brown people. And if you white, turning farmlands into leafy tree-lined suburbs. With the advent of the supermarket in the seventies, industrialized agriculture and food production became the norm.


Our priorities changed as the industrialized food system promised us, cheap fast food and we became increasingly focused on our work hours rather than our home hours. Farming moved from farmers’ fields to farm factories and climate control greenhouses. For many who live in the suburbs or cities, we’ve forgotten what farming even looks like or what a fresh tomato tastes like.


Growing your own food has thus become a revolutionary act that stands apart from the supermarket and fast food norm. This act becomes a statement: that we have not yet forgotten how important food is to our happiness and health. It is also an important decolonisation moment where people of all races, ethnicity and religious persuasions can put our hands in the soil and heal our community from the ravages of our past. We have all become removed from the soil. Reconnecting to the soil is reconnecting to community and to life itself.


Grow your own herbs or veggies, become a revolutionary! Turn your lawn and backyard into a food oasis. Inspire others in your neighbourhood to do the same. Identify land and start a community food garden. Include everyone around the food garden as far as possible. This will build community and will be source of support. Learn as much as you can from each other. Farmer to farmer doing [action] and learning [reflection] is gazillion times superior to spending time in a workshop and on Youtube. There are no experts. We all learning to grow the food garden/farm of the future. You now part of learning and growing a new culture of agriculture.

Here are 5 basic principles of growing healthy nutrient-dense food:

1. Don’t till the soil – ie move the bottom to the top. It destroys soil life- your natural fertilizer factory. There is more life in a healthy teaspoon of soil than people on the planet.

2. Always keep soil covered with mulch. It’s to the soil what skin is to your body.

3. Think diversity; food and indigenous, medicinal and herb plants. Shrubs and a tree too.

4. Always keep a living root in the soil. This keeps your soil life happy and multiply.

5. Integrate animals in your food garden or their manure. Keep a few hens for eggs and their manure for compost.

Your food garden should mimic an ecosystem. Attract insects, birds, reptiles, frogs. Save seeds. It’s the source of abundance and our food security.

Start small. Observe. Be patient. Don’t look for instant results. This is not fast food. Every failure is an opportunity to learn.

And lastly, remember, you still need to shop for food so learn as much as you can about where your food comes from; how its grown, what is the condition of farmers and farmworkers, and of the land. How far has the food travelled to get to your plate- ie what’s the carbon miles on your food. Food contributes up to 50% of all GHG that causes climate change, pestilence and viruses. What about the food system where the seemingly invincible ‘market’ decides who gets to eat and who don’t- and ask why?

If after all of that growing food is what you decide you love doing, then the next step is to join the new generation of farmers. Our country needs you.

Photo: Unemployed farmworkers now proud learner-farmers Baselene and Winnie on Vegkop Polyculture Farm. Go to donate and support a learner farmer today.


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