Here are some of the highlights of our conversation:
You had an exciting visit to your garden recently. What happened?
Yesterday we had the Western Cape Provincial Minister of Agriculture, Ivan Meyer, come to visit our garden. He came to see the work that we do, and he was so impressed! We want the land that is next door to us, so the minister said that he’s going to help us get access to the land that currently belongs to the city council.
What would that do for FTK? What does that mean for you if you get the land?
It will mean growth for us, especially in terms of more employment for the youth in our area. We’re also going to be able to achieve more goals, such as the soup kitchen that we want to start, and we will be able to sell a larger variety of produce.
One reason that we can’t sell volumes is because with limited space, once we harvest we must wait for the next harvest. That takes maybe two months to recover – we don’t make any profit for the whole two months while we wait for the crops to grow. So, when we are given access to the additional land, we will have a better chance of being able to sell every month without the waiting period.
How is FTK regarded by the community around you?
Well, they are inspired – very inspired. In most cases people just stand there and stare as they pass. Each and every time I happen to bump into one of the local community members they always say this is wonderful work that we are doing, because they see tourists coming in and out every week. They also see us on Instagram and on Facebook where I post the outcomes of what we do.
So, yeah, we are an inspiration – especially to the adults around us – because most of them wanted to start organisations like this, but, I don’t know… Maybe they were just too lazy to start? I don’t know. But since they saw that two young men can start something like this, I think it was an inspiration to them.
What sparked the idea of your agricultural township-based project?
My mother is the inspiration for FTK. She had a disabled child, my sister, and she was working in a disabled center. She was a helper. So, she decided one day that she was going to stop working and start her own center and foster children. In the beginning she didn’t even have any support – it started at our house. So, that was an inspiration for me – seeing my mom being able to grow her center into four homes.
She inspired me to make a change in the community and – knowing that the center that she has is a non-profit organisation – I wanted to make a difference by growing food for them. They were buying vegetables weekly at a very high price.
Has what you’re doing inspired people around you to take control of their own careers in the same way?
We have this other guy here called Lobs. Even though he also has a garden that he started first, as soon as he saw that we posted on Instagram, it became a friendly competition. Even the other garden owners have started doing the same thing! Other farmers have been influenced by us as well – they have been very keen to come and see how we grow our food at FTK. It’s a very positive thing, because even when we get sponsors, we try to link them up with other local farmers and garden owners. And we encourage sponsors to highlight others, too. We also make sure that if we get important information we share it, because we understand that we’re all in a difficult industry.
How instrumental has Uthando South Africa been in terms of connecting you with resources?
Uthando does wonderful work, you know. Before connecting with them we only had a contract with a food delivery company. Unfortunately, there were political issues with the micro farmers, so they decided to stop selling our produce. We don’t really know what happened. Luckily, Uthando saw us on Instagram and decided to visit the garden. Then they kept on visiting – with tourists! They introduced us to companies like Timeless Africa Safaris who donate money to our work and they helped us to set up a website. We also like to send donors, like them, reports every month on how everything is going.
How do you stay tenacious and tough in the face of all the challenges that you’ve been through?
It’s the love that I have for FTK, because from where I started and from what it is now, I do see the difference. So, if I gave up now it wouldn’t make sense. I know where it is headed and what we want FTK to be. I wouldn’t want to disappoint the people that are working with me.
What would you message to other young people in similar situations be, who may be inspired by your journey and thinking of doing this?
All I could say is that they should just start, because if you can just start and continue what you’re doing – have faith in what you are doing – you will see the results. In agriculture it’s a difficult field, because it requires waiting for something to grow. Sometimes we wait for three months for it to grow and to see the outcome, so it takes a lot of courage and passion to get results.