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Posted on: Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Stellenbosch Organic Farmers Market: To market, to market to buy a …

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Stellenbosch Organic Market

Stellenbosch Organic

I’m a sucker for markets. So shoot me. If I can, I visit markets as often as possible, and seldom the same one more than twice in a row. And we are so spoilt for choice in the Western Cape, that I can do virtually that – visit one a weekend for most of summer, without getting bored, not that you can possibly get ‘bored’ with any of these markets.

The Stellenbosch Organic Farmer’s Market has been at its new locale adjacent to Spier, along Allandale Road in Stellenbosch – you swing right off Baden Powell Drive at Lyndoch station and the big strawberry (make sure you crane your neck to look at the bus stop on your left along Allandale, shortly after the turn, as someone has spray painted a classic pair of angel wings inside the shelter) – for just short of a year.

The market’s newish venue is at the Waldorf School, which has also moved to the backside of Spier. And there is more to the relationship with the Waldorf school, as the Natural and Organic Farmer’s Market is an initiative of the Stellenbosch Waldorf school, hence the association.

We don’t manage to find a parking spot under a tree, as we’re a little late. The market starts promptly at 9am. We pass Dr Brom, editor of SA Journal of Natural Medicine, and his partner on their way out, their straw basket teeming with organic vegetables – this is an obvious case of putting your money where your mouth is. I almost exclaim in greeting and have to visibly restrain my arm from swinging up, before realising that the poor man isn’t going to have the foggiest notion who I am, even if I do read his magazine and his editorials from cover to cover.

Stellenbosch Organic Market

At the entrance to the market, and despite the heat, I halt at Shannon’s display of vertical gardens (living gardens growing on a wall). Shannon is passionate about her product. She and her partner produce these freestanding boxes, filled with plants, flowers, herbs, and you name it. They’re planted in a highly porous material, within a wooden frame work, into which they feed nutrient-rich soil, in which the plants then stand. I’ve heard about vertical landscapes (the way of the future, there is no way other than up), read lots about the innovation, but not seen it in action yet here in South Africa (later I lose my other half for half an hour, only to find him deep in conversation with Shannon, so am expecting that we’ll have a vertical wall somewhere on the property in the near future).

The essence of the landscaping is obviously that it saves space. Not only that, but the boxes can rest on any wall – outside or in. Shannon explains how one of their recent clients has just had her whole kitchen wall donned with vertical boxes, filled with herbs. She can pick literally as she cooks. And the wonderful part is that should something happen to one of the boxes, one can simply take it out and replace it. Not that anything should go wrong – Shannon emphasises how these boxes just go on and on growing, until they’re bursting out of the seams of the box.

I enter the market proper. It’s small, compact, but teeming with food and people. Most of it takes place under a series of nomadic stretch tents. There are groups of people before me at various tables and benches and I overhear general chatter, not about the weather but compost – the terms anaerobic and aerobic bandied about as I realise that this market is obviously the market of serious greenies. These guys aren’t just here to say they’ve picked up their weekly organic vegetables. Most of them are doing a lot more than talking.

To my right there are a couple of clay pizza ovens and a sign to my left advertises three choices of toppings – breakfast (or carné), marguerita and vegetarian – Enjoy breakfast or lunch at our market, the board encourages. It isn’t difficult to. Ahead of me there are a myriad stalls, most of them littered with vegetables and fruit. Vegetable stalls are a commodity amongst markets in Cape Town. It’s difficult to source organic vegetables (the few farmers producing them usually supply the box delivery schemes direct, and the rest Woolworths nabs).

Stellenbosch Organic Market

But we’re in the winelands, and right next door to Spier’s biodynamic farm. And Spier is not the only farm represented. Their neighbour is here too, with freshly squeezed grape juice, plums and pineapples, and I buy green beans from Eric Swarts who has his own farm on the Spier Estate (not often you can boast that you’ve bought vegetables from the farmer who grew them). At another table I spy my favourite freshly squeezed organic apple juice from Lorraine farm – we visited their garden last year as part of the Elgin Open Gardens – and I add a bag of apples to the mix.

Feeling thoroughly good about the world (and slightly sanctimonious), now that I’ve stocked up on veg, I look behind me where there are some wonderful loaves of bread, one of which soon joins my purchases of the morning. And in the hall, Spier’s free-range biodynamic chickens look as though they must have been fat and flourishing once, considering the size of them as they rest in a freezer. Even the nut lady (she’s not called the nut lady, but rather By Nature) has sourced nuts and dried fruit that are totally free of preservatives, if not organic – not an easy task, given that just about all dried fruit in SA is smothered in sulphur dioxide.

The market has very clear policies about who can display their wares. They support not only certified producers but also those who clearly intend becoming certified organic producers, or those who practice ethically. It’s a wonderful space in which to breakfast, lunch and meet friends for a catch-up, whilst children safely run and play.

Stellenbosch Info:

When & Where:
Organic Farmers’ Market, Waldorf School, Spier Wine Farm, Annandale Road, Stellenbosch, every Saturday from 9am – 2pm.

Wanda Coustas


Wanda Coustas has written in one form or another for 10 years, seven of them as a copyblogger. She has travelled the Western Cape extensively and the rest of the country in protracted road trips that have given her both joy and an ongoing relish for experiencing what she writes about first-hand. She is a trained opera singer, poet, eurythmy dancer, philosopher, and bee whisperer.

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