Since Paul moved to Howick I have swopped my early Saturday excursion to the Pietermaritzburg Farmers Market for one to the Karkloof Farmer’s Market. I buy delicious pecan tarts made by Di Dougherty, artisan bread from Graham Taute, free range chicken (for the dogs) from Croft and then stock up on whatever vegetables are in season at the Preston Farm Stall.
A beaming Benson tells me his surname is Kaloti. The way he says it, it sounds like ‘Carroty’ – what a perfect name for a farmer! The Preston Farm stall is always busy as discerning customers stock up on fresh produce, locally grown without harm to the environment. “We are number one at the market” he says cheerfully, “About 300 customers buy our produce every week. They see the snails and insects on the vegetables and they know it is organic.”
Benson believes absolutely that organic farming is the right way. “This is 100% food, with no poisons.” In Malawi, where he comes from, everyone has a good food garden, many families grow everything they need, including fruit. “At home we have one hectare and we grow all sorts of veggies. We used to use fertilizers, but now it is organic. This is much better because the poisons in fertilizers and chemicals actually destroy the life of people. I believe that bad food causes cancer and much suffering. Those who eat organic are stronger and happier. Many people are changing now.”
Benson has been working at Preston Farm for the past few years and is thoroughly enjoying Midlands life. “Even if I go home for a while, I will come back and continue growing vegetables” he says, adding “When I go, I like to teach other people.” He learned much from his uncle, Gram, who worked at Preston before him, but now lives in the Cape. Preston Farm on the edge of Howick is run by Grant Warren who is adamant that one can farm without harming the environment. He aims to have as small a footprint as possible, so his dairy herd eat grass and maize grown right on site, produce fabulous milk and, naturally, manure which is used in compost making for the vegetable plots. “I’m passionate about sustainability and our natural heritage.” Grant says.
Would you believe Benson’s favourite vegetable is carrots? Eaten raw, straight out of the ground. He also loves broccoli and big, fresh salads. Get to the market early before he sells out, to taste the carrots for yourself.