Livingseeds is the best seed company in South Africa.
Yes, I know I’m biased, being the owner of Livingseeds brings me immense pride and joy. We know that what we do is so important for the South African gardener, farmer and smallholder, in fact for anyone that is concerned with food security, seed freedom and seed saving.
There are many things that Livingseeds can claim to be the best at: We were the first Heirloom seed company in SA, we are the largest Heirloom seed company in SA and we have the largest selection of Heirloom seed varieties that are locally grown. Many local heirloom seed companies use Livingseeds either as their own seed supplier or as their yardstick to ascertain quality.
I could go on, however, for this article, I’m going to concentrate on one single aspect: Our seed quality.
Seed quality for a seed company, is paramount!
At the end of the day, we know that our customers will gauge us by our seed quality, and every interaction is typically based off of the initial experience.
Many customers have come to us and told us how happy they are to receive our seed and how great our germination is. Good quality seed with fantastic germination is of utmost importance to us and we appreciate the affirmations we are getting from gardeners and growers from all walks of life. It is just as important for us that the beginner gardener has the same success as the expert growers out there.
The focus of Livingseeds is very simple. We provide the very best heirloom vegetable seed in South Africa.
So how do we know that we have the best seed in South Africa?
Let me tell you a story, one that I’m very proud of.
He runs the Rosendal Permaculture Institute at Waaipoort Farm in the Free State and as such, is widely recognised as an authority in what he does.
In 2016 I was at a sustainability show in Pretoria and Thomas started chatting to me.
The story that transpired is for me, one great honour. Thomas related that over the years they had run experiments with the offerings from various seed suppliers and producers in South Africa. Due to the nature of permaculture, diversity is of paramount importance to ensure that the system is able to feed back into itself, and provide the incredible harvests that permaculture is known for.
To achieve this there is no single seed supplier that can supply all their needs, and by necessity permaculturists need to order from numerous seed suppliers. It must also be noted that the various seed companies, very often stock the same varieties. So naturally there is some over-lap.
Over the years, Thomas has ordered from every single seed supplier in South Africa, and in doing so he has been able to sample the wares that each supplier has on offer.
So now it comes down to the actual seed quality. Thomas and his people have planted seed from all of the various suppliers’ in real world applications. These were not specialist, double-blind lab tests, but practical field trials, where seed from various local seed suppliers were planted primarily for production.
The seed was planted correctly, by knowledgeable people in the correct manner, which, if you think about it, is the best way to assess the quality of the seed.
Thomas told me that over the years of planting locally supplied seed, every year, Livingseeds seeds came out as the best quality seed, both in terms of germination and in terms of actual quality of the plants produced.
What I find most impressive is that he said that these results were the same EVERY year, which goes to show that our seed quality is consistent year after year.
For a seed company, having someone that has intimate knowledge of seed, seed sowing practices and an in depth knowledge of growing practices say that your seed specifically, has a noticeably better germination that any other supplier, is high praise indeed.
We do a number of things that separates us from our competition, we know that we are the best seed company in South Africa, we lead and our competition follows, every year.
For us being listed by a credible authority, that is 100% external to Livingseeds, as having the best quality seed in South Africa, is probably the highest form of praise.
NOTE: Thomas Linders has not, and will not receive any compensation for this.
This article was written by myself (Sean Freeman) and I have received permission from Thomas to use his name.
Calling all veggie growers!!! If you have an awesome veggie garden, your produce is outstanding and everyone loves the food that comes out of your garden, it may be time to put your growing skills to the real test.
The big question is, how well does your produce rank against other veggie growers?
Everyone tells you that your tomatoes are the best, or that they have never eaten cucumbers as delicious as yours.
Everyone likes to think they grow the best produce, but the real question is… “is it really the best? Can your produce win a Vegetable Exhibition?”
This is your chance to find out how green your fingers really are. Come and exhibit your prize veggies at our Inaugural Vegetable Exhibition. This will give you a good idea of how well your garden’s produce ranks, and will also allow you to compare your best produce against the best produce of other growers in the region.
For a number of years now, it has been on my heart to host a real Vegetable Exhibition. The idea is to provide a platform for all veggie gardeners and farmers to bring their produce and show it off for others to see. At the same time they can rank their produce against other growers. Every veggie grower believes that their produce is the best, and this is the true test.
We have such great customers and they often send us pic’s of their produce and gardens. We are excited to have an opportunity to meet you guys in person, see and touch your produce and just have a great day chatting about veggies.
This is the inaugural Livingseeds Vegetable Exhibition, and looking at the responses so far, the competition is bound to be tough and exciting.
The whole idea is for you to have a great day, with some friendly competition and hopefully at the end of the day, you get to leave with bragging rights for the next year. Networking and chatting with other growers is also the best way to learn new and interesting techniques that can give you the edge for the following year. Who knows, you may even make some interesting new friends and meet some great gardening neighbours.
The Vegetable Exhibition is based on international show standards, and our intention is to develop this into a world class event over the next few years. As it’s our first year, we have relaxed a few of the conditions and requirements.
How to Enter.
This year it is very simple.
Let us know that you are keen to bring some produce, and then arrive within the specified time on the 9th of April to stage your veggies.
Please note that we have put together a show schedule and judging rules that need to be adhered to, so please make sure you download them and read them.
This year, there will be no charge to enter and exhibit, you will however have to pay the standard show entry of R40 per car.
The cool thing is that you can enter as many vegetable classes as you wish at no cost. So if you have a wildly productive garden, then bring your produce, and show it off.
There are categories for almost every vegetable that you can imagine, and even a few fun categories…. just for the fun of it.
The Exhibition will be held on Sunday the 9th of April at the Walkerville Agricultural Show. The Show organizers have given us the use of the annex to allow us to put this exhibition on.
We will have ribbons, certificates and great prizes for the top winners in each class. As well and an overall Exhibition winner for the exhibitor that accumulates the highest score on the day.
We are looking forward to an exciting day filled with amazing vegetables and awesome grower’s tales! Come along, with or without an exhibit. We’d love to meet you and hear all your Veggie tales!
With the drought that we are experiencing watering your garden is a real chore. Drip irrigation is a must in your garden.
Gardening in drought conditions is difficult, especially now that severe water restrictions are in place. The drought has the added effect of increasing the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables, so home gardeners are turning to their own gardens to feed their families. The only problem now is that cannot use hoses and sprinklers to water these cost saving gardens. Buckets are not efficient and the only reason you can use them is that the labour required to carry buckets is the disincentive to water the garden.
With drip irrigation, that issue is solved as you are able to precisely water your plants and there is no wastage.
This is our story on how we saved close on 90% of our farms water consumption as well as thousands of Rands every month.
For a long time Livingseeds Farm relied on a patchwork of different sprinkler systems in our fields. These sprinklers where bought with small fund allocations, as and when we needed to expand. They were made up of 3 or 4 disparate makes that just never did exactly what we needed them to do.
As we irrigated from a borehole, if we needed to run the sprinklers, it would run directly off the borehole pump. So, if we wanted to water just a small section the borehole pump ran. We found that to ‘save’ on the electricity that was being used, we would actually over-water certain sections, and this had its own set complications with diseases, over-watering etc.
In the spring of 2010 we made the move from overhead sprinklers to drip irrigation. The outlay was painful for the first month, however it was a real eye-opener over the next few months. We also doubled our planting area at the same time, as I figured that we may as well just bite the bullet and roll out a larger drip system in one go.
Immediately our Eskom bill dropped by R5k per month (note that this was pre Eskom rate hikes) and the amount of water we required to irrigate dropped by 80%! Yes an 80% water reduction on double the land use. (We have since installed a solar borehole pump, further reducing our Eskom dependency, but that’s a different story)
Combined with a regular and heavy mulching regime, drip irrigation could see you saving close on 90% of your vegetable garden watering bill.
So, to say that we are a little biased when it comes to drip irrigation is an understatement.
Our system has been designed around agricultural grade drip system. We have used this grade system on Livingseeds Farm from the last 6 years and apart from the occasional punctured line, they are still operating flawlessly. Our winters can drop to -15 and our summers peak at 40+, so you can rest assured that this is not a cheap retail grade drip system.
The emitters run at 1lt per hour at 1 bar, the water is directed at exactly the point that you want it and there is no wastage.
Because it only runs at 1 bar, there is no need to open your tap to full pressure, just a slight opening of your tap will give you more than enough pressure to run this system.
The kit comes with a full colour 13 page manual that will help you install your drip system in a matter of hours.
The two biggest assets that you as a home veggie gardener have in your Spring and Summer garden are Open Pollinated Heirloom vegetable seeds, and Succession planting.
There are many reason why we plant Heirloom seed in our gardens, one of the biggest benefits to the home gardener is that they do not all ripen at the same time.
Industrial hybrid seed needs 100% uniformity. They build machines to plant, maintain and harvest crops, if the crops are not 100% uniform, the machines don’t work properly and the harvest is delayed or messed up. Simply put, commercial farmers need to harvest the entire field on the same day. For that, the plants need to be uniform, and special seed is bred for just that reason.
With Heirloom seed, the trait of uneven ripening is perfect for home gardeners, as nobody wants a glut of any vegetable in the same week. As a home gardener, the last thing you want, is to be required to harvest everything at the same time and either have to give, or if ripens at the wrong time and you can’t process, throw most of your crop away. What you are looking for is staggered and uneven ripening. This will allow you to use and process your crops over an extended period.
You can plan and use the uneven ripening of heirloom seed to your advantage. It’s easy to spread that harvest of a number of weeks or months, and that’s just perfect! It still allows you some extra to be charitable with, and your planting just goes so much further.
Succession planting is the next weapon in the home gardeners arsenal. To be used effectively, you need to understand how it works. It’s no good just planting all your seeds every week or two weeks in order to have a staggered harvest. And unfortunately is how most people understand succession planting. The most common explanation by ‘experts’ is to just plant every X days or weeks. Personally I’m not a fan of this technique as people often miss a ‘pre-set’ day and then give up as they missed their critical day.
Proper succession planting is used with the understanding that certain crops and varieties have a bearing ‘sweet spot’, and it’s making good use of that sweet spot, and then having another variety waiting in the wings to replace it.
Certain crops lend themselves to succession planting and others not. Long season crops like onions and garlic, and perennial crops like asparagus and artichokes are just pointless being succession planted. Plant them once in a dedicated bed and harvest / process when ready.
So onto the meat of how to use succession planting.
Check your maturity dates on the varieties that you are looking to plant.
1) Different varieties if planted on the same day will have different maturity dates.
A good example is Tomatoes. (Note that these dates are from transplant.)
Most indeterminate tomatoes will start producing from around 85 – 90 days. And they can produce in well fed soil for 2-3 months. So in effect you only need to replant tomatoes every 2 months or so.
If you add a short season determinate tomato into your planting, you can get sun ripened salad tomatoes in 65 or 75 days, that’s almost a month off your first harvest date!
The nice part about this method is that even though you are harvesting tomatoes continuously, each variety tastes different and lends itself to different styles of cooking, ensuring that you don’t get tired of eating the same crop every week.
2) Look at what type crop you are planting.
Let’s use Bush Beans for this example. It will start bearing from around 55 days and will bear well, for a good 6-8 weeks (yes I know you can push it further).
So it makes sense to replant Bush Beans every 6 weeks to replace your production stock with young vigorous plants.
Adding Runner beans changes this dynamic, as they only start giving beans at 8 or 9 weeks, but will produce very well if picked over properly for a solid 3 months. So only plant a new runner bean crop every 8-10 weeks.
3) Cut once crops like heading lettuce can be put on a stricter schedule.
It’s pretty easy to work out how many your family will need on a weekly basis. And then plant to that schedule every 2-3 weeks. However, here again, using different lettuce varieties can extend your harvest. Loose leaf varieties are generally more heat adapted, and they can tolerate a bit of shade, which will slow down the bolting and extend the harvest.
When watching your garden progress over the season, if you see that something is not working. Lift it, don’t try and coax an unhappy plant, rather replace it with seedlings that you have waiting for garden space.
Having a constant seedling supply is important and you will be using crops out of your garden, as these are consumed, they will open up space for a new crop to go in. So either grow your own or order some in.
The simple answer is no. For a number of years (almost 12 in fact) the ARC has been trying to get the GMO potato SpuntaG2 approved for production and sale in South Africa. Fortunately, the application was declined twice, for a few good reasons. Concerns over health reasons, as the potato produces an insecticidal protein in its cells. In addition the potato is resistant to Tuber Moth and this is not considered a major pest in South Africa. And finally, no actual benefit could be shown to commercial or small scale farmers in South Africa, therefore the application was turned down.
So, rest in comfort. None of the potatoes that you buy on the shelves in South Africa are Genetically Infected. All you need to worry about is choosing the correct potato for the dish you are preparing.
There is however a huge shortage of locally available seed potatoes in South Africa, a number of harvests have been denied disease-free certification. Unable to be planted for harvest, they are thus sold on the market as table potatoes. This is in addition to the severe drought that we experienced last season, potato prices are never going to be at the R25/per bag that we got so accustomed to buying them at. The new normal is R80 -R100 per pocket.
Do not fear, there is nothing wrong with the table potatoes, they are 100% edible, they just cannot be planed to create a crop. One of the main problems for home gardeners is that they will plant a sprouting store-bought potato. This is false economy and could dramatically affect the harvests of related crops. Most virus and diseases that affect potatoes will also affect Tomatoes, Peppers, Chillies and Brinjals. So the few ‘cheap’ sprouting potatoes has the potential to adversely affect other crops for years to come, as the disease remains in the soil.
One of the best ways to get the best potatoes is to plant your own certified seed potatoes. Livingseeds has a selection of certified seed potatoes that are ready for planting.
Cutworms are the bane of a gardeners life, when planting out seedlings cutworms can make short work of all of your diligent growing out.
There are a number of different ways to protect your plants against cutworms and the most commonly recommended solution is to plant the seedling into a collar (or grow them in a collar) these collars can be cardboard tubes like toilet rolls or even PVC tubes.
This is a great idea, especially if you only have a few seedlings to plant out. However here on Livingseeds Farm we plant out thousands of seedlings and that adds up to a lot of toilet rolls.
I have heard and read about using soil calcium to combat cutworms, and that soils that have a proper calcium availability will have a lower or no cutworm incidence. I’m not sure if it’s soil pH or if it’s the actual calcium availability? However, looking at what we have experienced over the last two years I think its the physical calcium that makes the difference.
So, all very good and wonderful, how do we go about proving it. This is all anecdotal and it’s pretty hard to prove conclusively, however read along and see what we have found.
Typically here on Livingseeds Farm, we never had any specific cutworm program besides going into the tunnels early in the morning and manually catching the cutworms either in the act or just post act. Cutworms typically do their dirty work early in the morning and catching them is simple. As long as it’s done within an hour to two of the decapitation, they can be found by scratching around the severed seedling and collecting all the cutworms. They are typically found in a 2-6 cm zone around the seedling and about 1 or 2 cm deep. These were then fed with glee and much appreciation to our laying hens, who turned them into lovely eggs for us.
We would lose about 10-15% of our seedlings every year and basically accepted the fact that this was part of the deal when growing organically and not wanting to use pesticides.
I had been speaking to a few people about the Calcium – Cutworm theory, and 90% of the people shot the idea down as a waste of time. Always up for a challenge and proving people wrong I though we would give it a bash.
Knowing that all calcium is not created equal I decided to do a few simple tests. The kind that are easy and simple to replicate in the garden or in our case, in the fields.
Just a quick look at the different Calcium’s available to the gardener. (No need to go into cations anions and CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) of soil and how things are locked up and released. Suffice to say it’s interesting and very important, but not right now.)
Dolomitic Calcium is the cheapest, has the lowest availability, and takes years and years ….. and years to become available. Has a high Magnesium ratio that when it’s release, unfortunately also locks up other elements and tends to harden up your soil.
Calcitic Lime also known as Landbou Kalk, comes in various “kinds or sources and grades” and is the most commonly available. This is what is mostly sold as gardening lime. Nothing wrong with it and it works. (Again depending on the source / quality)
Bone Meal a superb source of highly available calcium and is held beautifully in the soil, it’s readily absorbed and is a much preferred source of calcium.
Gypsum. The most highly available source of calcium, also has a good ration of sulphur. If you are low in calcium this is a great way to fix a shortage very quickly as the plants can use it almost immediately. The Sulpher (anion) is locked onto the calcium (cation) making it freely available for absorption.
OK, onto our cutworm story. Last year we started our trials in two of our tunnels and found the following. (Both tunnels were planted to tomatoes)
All of the other tunnels were treated as normal and we harvested cutworms every morning for our hens.
In one tunnel we added in Calcitic Lime (Landbou Kalk) at around 150-200 gr per running meter and planted into the soil. Our cutworm activity was not noticeably reduced, and we had to control by hand.
In the second tunnel we used the Talborne Organics Vita Bone Phos at a similar rate. There was less cutworm activity, but we still had losses in the tunnel. There was a clear drop in cutworm activity and I felt it was well worth pursuing the reasoning that calcium reduces cutworm activity.
I decided that this year I would do a bit more to test this theory out. We ran the following calcium regimen in all of our tunnels and any open beds where we transplanted seedlings.
First the Vita Bone Phos was added to the soil (at approximately 150- 200 gr per running meter) and lightly worked into the top 5 cm of soil. The seedlings were planted directly into the soil along a drip line and then a tablespoon of the BonePhos around the seedling.
The tunnel where we had the Vita Bone Phos in last year had no seedling losses at all. We have to date lost only 6 seedlings this year, we have planted out thousands, both in tunnels and in open ground.
So do I believe that calcium stops cutworms, oh yes 100%. It just needs to be the right calcium.
Our seedling loss as a percentage this year (based on calcium treated soil) is less than 0.25% !! Going from a 10% loss every year to .25% is a huge drop.
The only place that we did not do the calcium treatment was on the Corn and Bean plantings. It’s noteworthy to see that we lost 15-20 % of our bean and corn plantings. What we also did not do, was the cutworm follow-up every morning in the bean and corn fields, so the damage was higher as we were not concentrating our efforts there. We were more concerned at what was happening (or not happening) with the calcium treated seedlings. Patting ourselves on the back and revelling in getting a grip on the cutworms by using the soil against them. By the time we woke up, the damage was already noticeable in the untreated areas.
My recipe now for cutworms, not just scratch them out manually. Add in 150 – 200 gr of Vita Bone Phos per running meter, and sprinkle just one tablespoon of BonePhos around each seedling. It’s simple, 100% organic, improves your soil quality and most importantly, IT WORKS!
Wow, what a day it was, the excitement started building from early in the morning when the first competitors started dropping their entries off.
First let me go back a few months and give you some background on this competition. John McChlery is the MD of Green’s Greens, a major supplier of farm fresh veggies to all of the supermarket groups. John was the brain behind this competition. He likes to deny it and push others to the forefront, however this competition would never have gotten off the ground without his dedication and effort.
This competition was made possible by the generous support of Standard Bank who put up the main prize money, and arranged for numerous activities and goodies for the kids on the day, as well as all of the eye-catching banners that lined the R59 Highway, and created an air of festivity within the R59 Shed. Without Standard Bank we would never have had such a successful competition. Everyone at The R59 Shed, Green’s Greens, Livingseeds, and Talborne Organics are honored to have Standard Bank as our headline sponsor.
So back to the day under discussion.
Saturday dawned bright with the blue Standard Bank banners very effectively painting our section of the R 59 blue. Everyone that drove past us knew that Standard Bank had something big going on here.
The day started off a bit slowly and by 10:00 we only had about 8 or 9 pumpkins lined up outside at the weigh-in station. This did lead to a bit of concern amongst the organizers. Thankfully we were soon inundated with people dropping their prize-winning hopefuls off, and we had at least two stages where we had a few cars lined up with giant pumpkins ready to be offloaded.
The Weigh-In Station was managed by the very capable guys from Scale Tronic Services who had a selection of scales there to handle everything up to a 600Kg behemoth, unfortunately that scale was never tested to its full capacity. We are however hoping that in the next year or so we will be doing a bit of limit testing on a few of Scale Tronics’ wares. It was really comforting to note that these guys had SABS approved certificates for their scales available for anyone that queried the veracity of their instrumentation. And naturally one or two people did query the reliability of the two scales used to weigh the pumpkins. Dawie Nortje and Ashish Mahase of Scale Tronic Services oversaw the critical element of weighing all the entries, and did an exceptional job of doing it quickly, accurately and correctly.
Talborne Organics has been a very supportive sponsor from the first day. In September 2012 they supplied organic seed starter packs for all the competitors, and I know that many of the competitors used their products to either feed or protect their precious giants. Talborne Organics also supplied prizes for every prize category in the competition.
At 12:00 we started the official weigh-in process and all entries were carried onto the main platform for weighing. All entries were weighed on the same platform scale to ensure that no discrepancies or challenges were possible. A total of 49 pumpkins were entered into the competition.
This being our inaugural competition, every single entrant was a first time Giant Pumpkin Grower, we are very proud of the effort made by each and every entrant. To all of the entrants, Thank you guys!!! It is your effort over the last few months that made this day a success.
To this end we had a number of smaller prizes that were awarded in various categories to ensure that people were recognized for their efforts.
Here are a few interesting facts of the day.
1) The type of Pumpkin was the Atlantic Giant Pumpkin
2) A total of 49 Pumpkins were entered
3) 2142.30 was the total combined weight of all of the pumpkins entered.
4) The average weight was 43.72
5) Over 20 pumpkins were donated to various schools, charities and churches in the area to help feed the underprivileged.
The top 3 Giant Pumpkins were
1) 111.80Kgs Entered by Shirley Olivier.
2) 95.60Kgs Entered By Dirk Rabie
3) 87.80Kgs entered by Team Vera
In the Junior competition
1) 68.80Kgs entered by Letsema Home School
2) 66.80Kgs entered by Janna Pienaar
3) 61.40Kgs entered by Megan McChlery
It can be seen that the competition was tight and there was very little spread between 1st and 3rd places in both categories.
Smallest Giant Pumpkin went to Letsema Home School with a “little giant” of just 9.2 Kgs.
We sent Gardening Celebrity Jane Griffiths along with Claire Slabber from Talborne Organics to select 2 other pumpkins for us. We asked that they choose pumpkins to fulfill the roles of Prettiest and Ugliest pumpkins for our competition.
So, as ladies are want to do, they came back with three pumpkins and demanded that we add a third category for the Most Unique pumpkin.
These are the three pumpkins that were chosen.
Ugliest Giant Pumpkin: Entered by Peter Payne (53.2 Kgs) Prettiest Giant Pumpkin: Entered by Letsema Home School (68.8 Kgs) Most Unique Giant Pumpkin: Entered by Letsema Home School (54.2 Kgs)
We also had a very well support “Guess The Weight” pumpkin. My son Daniel managed the table and solicited ‘guestimates’ from passersby. They had to pay R10.00 for the privilege of potentially winning a R500.00 prize sponsored again by a very generous Standard Bank.
The pumpkin was weighed immediately after a witnessed calibration test, and weighed in at exactly 71.8 Kgs The closest ‘guestimate’ was 72.00 Kgs and the winner of that prize was a very happy Jane Griffiths. A total of R800.00 was raised for the Sukasambe Children’s Home on that competition alone.
As the organizers we would sincerely like to thank every competitor that entered, we know of a number of very worthy entries that split and were ineligible or broke open and thus would have been disqualified.
To the entries that were able to bring a pumpkin in on the day. THANK YOU! Every one of you are very much appreciated, it was you that contributed to the fun and excitement of the day. We trust that we will see you again next year for round two.
I have spoken to a number of the entrants and they are already making plans for the next competition, we have some people already building huge compost heaps now, to ensure that they have enough food to feed their own Giants. Everyone that I spoke to recons that they know how to improve their sizes, and will definitely be fielding a bigger pumpkin next year.
Finally, it must be remembered that this is a community competition. All of the proceeds from the competition are donated to two of our local charities the first being the Sukasambe Children’s Home that assists mentally and Physically disabled children that have been abandoned. The Second Charity is Dolly’s Old Age home in Penvale. Without your support, it would not have been possible to donate over R9000.00 to charity.
Thank you guys!!
If you would like to sign-up for the 2014 Standard Bank / Livingseeds Giant Pumpkin Competition @ the R59 Shed please click here. Note that registration is from September 2013.
Note: The three winning pumpkins will be on display at the R59 Shed until the end of April. Please Pop-in and come see what our winners grew.
This post is something that I have been pondering for a while. I’m a firm believer in the use of organic matter in the garden and on farm. Here at Livingseeds Farm we spend a lot of time and money adding organic matter to our soil, mainly as a mulch on top of beds, but we do spread compost onto our grazing lands when we have spare. We are primarily a seed production operation and the main function of our animals is production of clean meat for our family and compost for the gardens.
To give you an idea as to what ‘method’ we practise we are firm believers in nitrogen capture utilizing carbon, we actively green manure with nitrogen fixing legumes in all unused beds over winter, we use high density-high impact grazing of cattle and sheep, we run a small pastured poultry operation for select customers and compost the slaughter waste of cattle, pigs, sheep and chickens once again with judicious amounts of carbon. (Joel Salatin’s methodology rules on this farm)
We don’t vaccinate our animals, no de-wormers, no licks, no dips and definitely no chemicals or poisons. Our water is solar pumped and then drip irrigated via gravity through a few kilometres of drip lines. This reduces our water requirements by over 80% and we are also doing our bit to save electricity.
Are we registered as organic NO! Will we ever be? NO!
Why not? you may ask.
It’s pretty simple and here is my thinking.
I think that it’s simply ludicrous that the organic farming community wants to hand over the foundation and essence of what we stand for, to an institution that is corrupt to the core.
It’s the same as asking crowd of known paedophiles to look after your children… for the long weekend.
In what right mind would anyone ask our government to protect the essence and values of organic agriculture?
Come on guys, get your heads on straight, once they have their hands on organic legislation they can and will have it changed, amended, altered and twisted to suit big business. Remember big business has a lot more clout and can properly wine and dine the political powers, than a few small organic operators. They have a lot more to gain from lowering the bar when it comes to organic certification.
The US organic community is currently fighting to keep GM infected crops from getting organic status, all because the USDA now has control of the word ‘organic’. The same can and will happen here.
Already certain farmers worldwide are now talking about ‘Beyond organic’ as they try to prove with a smart phrase, that they are better than organic because that special O-word is already tainted.
I propose that instead of having organic legislation passed. What needs to happen is that chemical legislation needs to be passed.
Very simple, if ANY synthetic chemicals are used in the growing, harvesting, processing, packaging or storage of any food product is should get a simple label that says CHEMICALLY TREATED.
No threshold and no exemptions, it’s simple and it would work.
But then again it’s a dream, seeing as our government is too scared to properly label Genetically Infected food. Why on earth would they properly label chemically treated food or even protect the fundamental tenants and values of organic agriculture.
This is a follow-up on a previous post on Farmers Markets. This post has come around mainly from watching other stall holders and how they deal with sales that walk past their stalls.
What must be remembered is that people come to markets to spend money. Here is something you might not realise, “They Actually Have Money to Spend!” It’s up to you to excite them, when people are excited they are more inclined to spend that money with you.
A very common complaint that my wife has at markets is that they are often full of cheap trash, she has often popped out to a market to purchase a gift and come back empty handed and disappointed at the quality of the goods on offer.
The decision to have a stall at a farmers market is pretty easy, and generally one can get away with a couple of hundred Rands in initial investment. It’s making the sales that seems to be the hardest part!
I’ve seen people with good quality perishable goods that should be selling quickly, have a disastrous day. At the end of a whole day sitting in gloom, they grumble that the food is going home to feed pigs…. meanwhile, they should have sold out.
I believe that there are two MAIN hurdles that people need to overcome when looking at farmers markets.
The first is what to sell. This is one of the continuous questions that I hear from people that want (or need) to make an additional income.
My advice is generally to visit your local markets and just watch. Don’t watch what the stalls are selling. Watch where the people are spending time AND money. These are the stalls that are selling something that’s in demand.
NOW look at what they are selling, take note of a few things. The first thing you will see is that the stall is probably full of produce / product. There is excitement on both sides of the stall and the person selling is typically talking loud enough so that passers-by can pick up on the conversation.
It does not really matter what the products are, but it’s generally fresh, new, exciting, upbeat and LOCALLY PRODUCED. Either by themselves or another local person or farmer.
My list of fast selling lines are.
Market veggies (Speciality and/or seasonal)
Seedlings (Flowers, veggies or herbs)
Lettuce and/or Salad pre-packs (Quick wins in your own garden for high margins)
Farm produce (Eggs, Fresh chicken etc)
Feta Cheese (Quick and Easy to make and everyone loves feta)
Cut Flowers (Surprisingly, these are great sellers at farmers markets, walking with a bunch of pretty flowers is very sexy)
What needs to be remembered is that people are looking for something that has a story, so tell them one, and tell it over and over again. Just as long as it’s the truth.
People want value for money, and they want to enjoy their purchase. People also like telling their own story of how they ‘found you’. If you are selling a consumable item and it’s a great product, they will probably share your goods with guests, as well as your story and that’s how you develop a name.
Selling DVD’s at a farmers or craft market is not what people are looking for, if they want to buy illegal copies of new movies they will buy it at the Zimbabwean on the first street corner or PS2 Games from the Malawian at the second one. They also did not come to visit their local China mart stall, don’t try sell junk guys, people can see through you.
People come to the market to try something new, so your Herb Leaf Salad pack that really IS a Herb Leaf Salad pack is going to rock their palates this evening and they will be back for more next week. Those stunning unusual veggies or flowers will be taken home, because you used special seed or they are old unique varieties that are not available anywhere else.
The second hurdle is: Actually doing what you paid money to do in the first place…. selling!
Successful stalls NEVER have a chair for the stall holder to sit on.
I have watched fellow stall holders at a number of markets over the last year, the main deterrent to a prospective buyer is a stall holder that is sitting down or chatting to another stallholder.
The act of you sitting down prevents prospective customers from casually approaching you, because you are busy….. busy sitting and doing nothing. I’ve seen people, reading, knitting, eating, or just sitting glumly behind their stalls. If you are going to sit down, rather do it at home where you don’t have to pay for the privilege.
Another thing is talking to other stall holders. Now don’t get me wrong, be friendly and and show and interest in them, as they will assist you with your stall when you are short staffed or need to run to the loo, or vice-versa. But don’t strike up a full length conversation and ignore the feet walking past. Stop those feet and talk to them instead.
If you are a smoker. Don’t smoke at your stall, no matter what your belief is about your right to smoke. And please don’t walk away from your stall to smoke, and them come and smoke at my stall! I tend to lose my sense of humour, as your smoke chases my customers away. I might just make you buy something.
My wife, eldest daughter and I run 2 separate stands at our local market, we sell our seeds and seedlings as well as a separate stand that sells fresh filter coffee by the cup. We have a rule that at least one of us is outside the stand engaging customers, talking to passers buy and generally being affable.
Our method is simple, and it’s as follows. Touch, Pause, Engage and Pass.
Touch with a word or two to spark interest.
Pause to see if there indeed is interest.
Engage and develop that interest
Pass the customer to the team mate behind the stand, if they are busy then help that customer yourself.
What this does is creates foot traffic and excitement at your stand, that excitement draws more customers. When things quieten down, then start again. Touch, Pause, Engage, Pass.
Farmers and Craft Markets are only as good as the stall holders, and they are the people that make the “vibe” of a market, if you guys are all glum and grumbly, don’t expect customers to cheer you up or spend money with you.
Being upbeat, having a smile and engaging with people all contribute to better sales. It’s easy and cost nothing. You are going to spend the day there anyway, so rather do it with a smile and come home with full pockets.
It gives me great pleasure to post a guest article on Selfsustainable. This is an extremely well researched article by Danie Olivier from Mossel Bay. With so little information readily available on this uniquely South African bean, Danie wanted to know more and set about investigating the history of this unique bean. Below is the result of months of work, Thank you Danie.
Have you ever heard of the Hereboontjie (directly translated as “Lord’s Bean”), a flat white bean with a black marking above the hilum (the place where the seed is attached to the pod)? It is an unnamed variety of Phaseolus lunatus, and our very own authentic South African Lima bean, an Heirloom variety, that is still cultivated mainly the Sandveld, and a few other areas in the Western Cape. The first record of this bean in Afrikaans was by Pannevis (1880) in the form Heerenboontjie and in the Patriotwoordeboek (1902) in the form Heerboontjiis. The Entimologiewoordeboek van Afrikaans says that the name comes from Netherlands, in the form Herenboon.
In 1963, Dr. C. Louis Leipoldt already said: “It would be hard to find something more genuinely Afrikaans in a vegetable garden than the good old Goewerneursboontjie, or Hereboontjie, as it is also called.” Till this day it is still regarded by many as the aristocrat of beans.
Where does the name come from?
Through the years a number of stories were handed down as to where this white bean received its name. Looking at all the different sources there also does not seem to be consensus about the origin of the name. Listed below are all the stories I found during my research.
The first story is one that I have heard a couple of times, and to me it sounds the closest to the truth. The story goes that the Hereboontjie was named after Jan van Riebeeck who was the “Here van die Kaap” from 1652-1662. Reportedly, this bean was first introduced to the Cape by the Here XVII, thus it indeed has a long history in South Africa. It is also believed that each year Van Riebeeck sent some of these beans to “The Queen” as it was the only bean “She” would eat. Die queen in question is unknown, because at the time King William III was too young to marry and there was no royal family on the throne in the Netherlands.They were ruled by stadholders and not royalty during this time in history.
The second story comes from the Sandveld. Goewerneursboontjie, directly translated as Governor’s Bean, is the common name that the famers here use for the Hereboontjie. According to them this name was recorded by governor Simon van der Stel who first imported these beans to the Cape. Others suggest that the farmers of that time had to surrender a portion of their harvest to the governor as harvest tax, and that this is where the name Governor’s bean originated.
Thirdly there are a few people who suggest the name Governor’s bean is derived from the feudal system that might have ruled in the Sandveld during earlier times. This system has a landlord that made land available to farmers who then farmed according to an agreed share. When harvest time came, it could then be said: “Remember the lord’s beans”, hence Lord’s Beans or Hereboontjie.
This bean is also lesser known as the Sewejaarsboontjie or Seven-year bean, because it is perennial. Unlike other beans some Lima beans have deep thick perennial roots from which the plant grows in subsequent seasons. Here in South Africa it is normally grown as an annual because the plant does not survive the very cold and frost of our winters. Only in the tropics like Central- and South America it grows as a true perennial.
Anelia Marais from Elsenburg wrote in her letter to Die Burger on 23 June 2001, that a very old dictionary recorded the name as ‘civet bean’, but that none of the farmers in the Sandveld know this name. I did some research and found that the civet or sieva bean is indeed a Lima bean which has seeds much smaller than the normal Lima- or Butter bean. This corresponds with the Hereboontjie which has smaller seeds.
Lastly there is a beautiful quote that I am in including. Riana Scheepers wrote the following in here column Plotseling in Die Burger about the Hereboontjie: “I do not know where this bean got its name, but if I could guess, it is because the Lords grace abundantly rests upon it.He grows only where others gave up long ago: in the thinnest weakest soil imaginable. But when after vining up and ripening it reaches the other side, it is a beautiful thing. Something that makes connoisseurs sing odes.”
Another story comes from the very same Sandveld. It is said that since the first British occupation every year two bags (streepsakke) of Hereboontjies were sent to Buckingham Palace for the royal family’s personal use. These beans is believed to come from the Langfontein farm between Aurora and Redelinghuis.
Evita Bezuidehout calls them“Bloubloedboontjies.” i.e. Royal Beans
Other interesting facts.
For the proud people of the Sandveld region there is one relentless test for a bride who wants to wed into the family, and that is how well you can prepare Hereboontjies. Will you honour your Hereboontjies, treating them with care and respect? only then are you a good wife.
Some people of European descent are allergic to Lima beans because of an genetic mutation that occurred at the time when that beans were first introduced to this part of the world.
According to Leipoldt, the Hereboontjie is not the one with the black patch we know, but beans beautifully coloured like Amandola marble with hues of black-brown, red, white and yellow colours. He also says: “It is true, we currently seldom find the goewerneursboontjie in its original grandeur, and that it is also becoming smaller, more wrinkled and less colourful. There is even pale-yellow and off-white descendants, South American varieties with a less flavourful taste which are not nearly as aesthetically pleasing to the eye.”
In 2001, Mrs S. Coetzee from Bothasig in Cape Town, wrote in a letter to Die Burger in which she mentions that here parents (De Beer) moved to the Kromland farm near Graafwater in the Clainwilliam district. She was five years old at the time. Her parents cultivated Hereboontjies which was mottled with purple speckles. The beans are planted in September and ripen toward March. Pods are harvested by hand and thrown in bags until completely dry. Thereafter the beans are beaten out or shelled by hand, a job that was always given to the children. All the broken beans were thrown out.
From the above paragraphs we can clearly see that there are a number of Hereboontjie varieties which are different to the one we know. I could not find any pictures or information on what these other beans look like, but it falls in line with the dictionary definition.
Today Hereboontjies are primarily cultivated in the Sandveld. They are common between Elands Bay and Lamberts Bay as well as around Aurora and Redelinghuys, Sandfontein and Piketberg. There is also a belief among some people that Hereboontjies can only be cultivated here, but this is not true. Apparently they can grow anywhere, needing only sandy soil and fresh water. I have also read about Hereboontijes being cultivated at Riebeeck-Kasteel, Onrus and Graafwater, but I am not sure of the scale.
Hereboontjies prefer poor, moist, slightly acidic, sandy loam. It is sensitive to high pH levels, hence it grows so well in the Sandveld. It likes flood irrigation and grows well in unfertilised soil. For this reason it holds good potential for organic gardening.
Hereboontjies are rarely bothered by insects and diseases, and the reason seems to be the natural cyanide content of the plant. The green plant material contains cyanide, while the dried plant material contains none or almost none cyanide, hence it is only used as a dry shell bean.
Because the uneven ripening of pods makes mechanical harvesting difficult, this task is accomplished mostly by hand.
At Elsenburg 60 plants were planted in an area of about 300m. No fertiliser were used and the plants depended on what remained in the ground from the previous season. Drip irrigation was applied at 8 litres per plant per week. After being shelled and sorted, the yield was 15kg of dry beans. (about 5 t/ha), which is in accordance with yield numbers of the Sandveld.
It appears that animals also benefit from the plant ,and commonly eats the dry plant remains after the harvest. The dry material (pods, stems and leaves) were analysed by the animal production laboratories and tested for various nutritional elements. The results are as follows:
Total Digestible Nutritional Material 61.68
Raw Protein 15,06
In Vitro Organic Material Digestibility 67,02
Origin of the Lima Bean
Lima beans are one of the seven Phaseolus species that all originate from Central- and South America.
Some sources indicate the bean’s other names as Madagascar- or Birma-bean even though it does not come from there at all. There is however a Madagascar Lima bean that is another rare African heirloom. Source Website
According to Zven & De Wet’s Dictionary of cultivated plants and their regions of diversity, Pudoc 1982, Netherlands, the origin is Central America particularly the Andes mountains (from Peru to Argentina).
According to these writers the Lima bean can be divided into three main variety groups:
“You are not hungry for a Heerboon, you have a need for it”, says Jacobus Smit, a farmer from the Sandveld. He says that there are very few that cultivates this bean. He knows only of himself, his brother, and two others. “We also do not distribute it”, he says laughingly.
The Hereboontjie has for years been a favourite Sunday food in the Sandveld, where it is cultivated. Traditionally it is also used in soups and stews.
From all the articles I have read, it seems clear that the Hereboontjie taste is unique, hence the reason Leipoldt preferred his Heerboontjies cold without any trimmings. He wrote that they have the “true goewerneursboontjie taste, which is somewhere between that of a chestnut and dried medlar fruit.”
“Soaking it to long is a trigger to growth – a revival of the life in the germ – that starts the highly mysterious chemical reaction, which can spoil the taste in an instant. Hence an hour and a half at the most”, he says.
Maureen Joubert wrote in her column, Van Alle Kante, in Die Burger newspaper, “It is not a big gift when you get some Hereboontjies, it is a blessing.”
Die Goewerneur se Boontjie
“Die Goewerneur se Boontjie” was one of 55 essays that Leipoldt wrote from 1942 until just before his death in 1947 on request of the then editor of Die Huisgenoot, J.M.H. Viljoen, using the alias K.A.R. Bonade. I include this piece because it is so beautifully written, and a very good read. It is not translated, because you just cannot say it as well in English. You can download the PDF ebook with the rest of his essays using This Link:
Die Goewerneur se Boontjie
Dit sou moeilik wees om in die groentetuin iets meer eg Afrikaans teë tekom as die ouder wetse ‘goewerneursboontjie’, of, soos hy soms genoem word, ‘hereboontjie’. En dit sou ook moeilik wees om hom raakte loop in enige buiteland se kookboek. Raadpleeg maar daardie alwetende ‘Larousse gastronomique’, die al omvattende, alles beskrywende leerboek vir die hedendaag se kok, en jy sal vind dat ons mooi, lekker goewerneursboontjie nie eens daarin genoem word nie. Selfs in ons Afrikaanse kookboeke word hy nie aangetref nie, al word daar soms van ‘droëboontjies’ gepraat.
En tog, wat is daar mooier as die ouderwetse, groot sort goewerneursboontjies? Groen, is hulle ‘n prag, of skoon dit amper ‘n sonde sou wees om die nog onmondige peul vrug kombuis toe teneem, want hulle is baie lekkerder as hulle ryp geword het in die son. Net soos die peule oopbreek en die twee gedeeltes opkrul om die skat wat hulle tot hiertoesorg vuldig bewaar het, aan die wêreld te ontbloot, is hulle regtig op hulbeste. Hoe pragtig is die skakerings van kleur – rooi, swart-bruin, wit en geel – wat hulle toon. Soos stukkies Amandola-marmer lê hulle daar – en daardie soort is van ouds herberoemd as die beste marmer. Dit is waar, ons kry teens woordig maar selde die goewerneursboontjie in sy egte ouderwetseprag, en ditl yk al hoe meer as of sy sort kleiner, gerimpelder en minder kleurryk word. Daar is selfs af stammelinge van hom wat bleek-geel en vuil-wit is, Suid-Amerikaanse soorte wat glad nie so lekker smaak nie en esteties veel minder indruk op jou maak.
Kry dus die ouder wetsesoort – as jy kan. Liefs van ‘n plaas êrens in die suidwestelike gedeelte van die Kaap, waar dit op rivier grond gegroei en teen die suidooste wind stand gehou het. En behandel dit as seblief nie soos gewone droëboontjies nie, want dit is ‘n aristokraat en het sy voor regte, ja, selfs sy grilletjies. Liefs in ‘n lugdigte fles, goed droog, behoorlik skoon, buite bereik van alles wat, soos ons in ons jeug op geheim sinnige manier gemompel het, ‘n knikkertjie kan rinneweer. Moenie dink dit is teveel om van ‘n reeds oorwerk te huisvrou te eis nie. Dit betaal dubbel en dwars want dit behou die smaak. ‘Die smaak, Kleinbaas, die smaak,’ soos ou aia Mina, of Anna, of hoe die ous kepsel ook geheet het van wie ek geleer het hoe om met goewerneursboontjies om te gaan, altyd gesê het, ‘is wat hom goud werd maak.’
Ek stem nie heeltemal saam nie. Die goewerneursboontjie is van al ons boontjie soorte miskien die voedsaamste. Sy voedsel waarde – die wys neusesê ‘kaloriewaarde’, maar hulle is sommer verspot, want ons kies nie ons kos omdat die een sort meer brandhout lewer as die ander nie – staan verbodié van vleis of vis of vrugte en hy bevat in hom self byna alles (die nuwer wetse vitamins wat nou so danig in die mode is, in kluis) wat die mens nodig het om hom aan die lewete hou. Nie alles natuurlik nie, want ‘n mens kannie net van goewerneursboontjies lewe nie.
En watnou? Ja, ongelukkigsê die kookboeke nik soor hoe ons hom moet berei en gaar maak nie. Ek sal egter ‘n paar resepte voorlê wat op eie ondervinding berus en wat ek kan aanbeveel. Maar onthou, geduld en lankmoedigheid is nodig om met goewerneursboontjies om te gaan.
Neem hulle dus uit hul lugdigte fles. ‘n Koppievol is genoeg om mee te begin. Onder soek hulle. Gooi weg enige en wa nie onberispelik rein, volmaak en vir die oog welgevallig is nie. Was hulle in koue water om enige greintjie aardse stof wat daar miskien nog aan hulle mag klewe, wegteruim. Sit hulle dan in ‘n skoon kastrol en bedek hulle met kraanwater, of fonteinwater, as daarnie ‘n kraan is nie. Laat hulle daarin lê, maar asseblief nie alte lank nie. Selfs vir die minderwaardige droëboontjie soorte gril ek as ek in ‘n kookboek lees: ‘Laathulle die hele nag in koue water week.’ Skimme van Careme en La Chapelle! Watter manier van behandeling is dit vir goewerneursboontjies! ‘n Alte lang deur weking is ‘n prikkel tot groei – tot herlewing van die lewenslus daarbinne in die kiem – tot ‘n begin van daardie hoogs misterieuse skeikundige stof wisseling wat in ‘n ommesientjie die smaak kan bederwe. Dus hoogstens ander half uur, nie langer nie.
Gooi dan die water af en vervang dit met ‘n nuwe doopsel, hierdie keer louwarm water met ‘n grypie sout daarin. Maar in hemelsnaam geen koeksoda nie! Niks, jammer genoeg, kan die glansryke, pragtige kleur bewaar nie; met die kook gaan dit verlore en die boontjies word bruin; ligbruin as hulle behoorlik, stadig maar goed gekook word, donkerder as hulle te vinnig kook. Hou die deksel op die kastrol, maar skud homsoms en voeg nou en dan ‘n bietjie warm water by, sodat die boontjies altyd onder en nie bo die water kook nie. Sodra hulle sag is, neem die kastrol van die vuur herd, gooi die water af en skud die boontjies droog in ‘n vergiettes.
Vir die eenvoudige kenner wat altyd van ‘n suiwer groentesmaak hou, is hulle nou gaar en klaar vir die tafel. Veral koud. Want hulle het die egte goewerneursboontjie smaak, so tussen dié van ‘n kastaiing en ‘n uitgedroogde mispel. Jy kan hulle op dis met ‘n suursous, of as slaai met ‘n eenvoudige mengsel van asyn en peper, ‘n snoepseltjie mosterd en ‘n bietjie olie.
Iets fyner, meer geraffineer? Ja, daar is sommige van ons wat nie tevrede is met die reine eenvoud nie. Hulle wil die lelie verguld, reuk water oor ‘n resedagiet.
Nou ja, vir hulle dan: Sit die boontjies terug in die kastrol, saam met ‘n grypie peper, gemmer en foelie, en gooi daarop ‘n koppie vleis- of hoender sop. Laat dit stadig kook, met die kastroldeksel toe. Smoor in ‘n ander kastrol ‘n gesnipperdeui (met ‘n rafeltjie knofl ok daarby, indien gewens), en as dit ligbruin is, meng daarmee ‘n paar eetlepels vol tamatiesous. Verdun met ‘n paar lepels vol van die sop waarin die boontjies kook en roer dan die mengsel versigtig in die boontjies, sodat hulle nie breek nie. Laat dit ‘n paar minute kook en dis op met pieterselie daaroor.
Nog ‘n ander metode: Sit die boontjies in die kastrol, saam met ‘n groot eetlepel botter of sagte (liefshoender-) vet; voeg peper, foelie en kruie by; laat stadig smoor en sorg dat die boontjies nie breek nie. Bedien met gerasperde neut of pieterselie daar oor.
Wat omdaar mee te drink? Dis ‘n gekleurdeskottel, en die estetiese sin verlang ‘n gekleurdewyn. Dus ‘n rooi tafelwyn wat nie soet is nie.
Beyers, Yvonne. „Op soek na die goewerneur se groot boontjies.” Die Burger: By: Nuus, 29 07 2011: 15.
Bezuidenhout, Evita. Evita Se Kossie Sikelela. Vertaal deur Hesti van der Mescht. Kaapstad, Wes-Kaap: Umuzi, 2010.
Die Burger. „Armmanskos in Abraham se skoot.” 23 2 2005: 4-5.
Die Burger. „Nooienshaar op Mauritius en heerboontjies van die Andes.” 23 6 2001: 4.
Die Burger. „Sandveldse heerboontjie voed Buckingham-paleis.” 4 10 2002: 6.
Die Burger:Buite:Nuus. „’n Boontjie is ‘n wonderlike ding.” 12 7 2011.
Die Patriot-Woordeboek. 1902.
Etimologiewoordeboek van Afrikaans. Stellenbosch: Buro van die WAT, 2003.