Mr Organic

“I don’t consider myself a farmer yet”, says Rob Symons of Broadleaze, “I believe that if you have a natural ecosystem and your soil is good, you will be able to grow food”

Broadleaze had lain fallow for 25 years before Rob arrived, which meant the soil was alive, the natural system in balance and as a result, there are not many pests. 

Sometimes, Rob has observed the Hadedas literally lining up and walking along slowly clearing the field of snails!  The Crowned Eagle and Caracal keep monkeys at bay. During winter, the juicy greens are irresistible to the Nyala and Bushbuck. Rob has not found a solution to this yet, other than simply sharing. In a balanced system the fruit trees are interspersed with indigenous vegetation creating habitats for bats and frogs and the fields teem with life.  Rob practices simple crop rotation- leaf crops are followed by onions, then beans, ending with carrots.  This way of farming is more of an art actually – learning by observation and reacting creatively.

When Rob began farming, there was little market for organic in KZN. Nowadays, shops ask for more than he can supply.  Broadleaze decided to go the route of official Organic Certification, where the origin of everything can be traced. Finding untreated seed in SA is difficult, so all seed has to be washed to remove fungicides before planting.  Broadleaze now saves their seed and grows the seedlings to ensure that they are truly organic.  Water is the biggest limitation to how much they can grow.  Rain is the best irrigation and thunder and lightning mean the rain is rich in nitrogen. “I do love the brilliant shade of green the grass turns after a good hailstorm.”

As with most organic farmers, Rob likes to grow things according to the season. Annoyingly, lettuce does best in winter, just when the demand drops. This is a pity as the flavour and nutrient level improves dramatically in cooler weather – we should be eating delicious salads outside in the sunshine for lunch!

“If a household wants to play their part in protecting our environment and reducing human induced global warming, the most significant act will be choosing food that has been produced organically. The right choices will help determine the world your children and grandchildren will live in.” concludes Rob.

Meet Rob at the Karkloof Farmers Market or follow his fabulous blog full of useful information at http://broadleaze.wordpress.com

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