Merryn Scott Tluczek - one of Jozi's founding food heroines

Merryn Scott Tluczek – one of Jozi’s founding food heroines

Celebrating Merryn Scott Tluczek, founder of Aloe Dale.

Every since Kim from O’My Goodness showed up this week with her price decrease, I have been thinking back to the founding people in Jozi who brought the food revolution to the place it is at now. The book needs to be written about the group of people that shaped this space and their journey and I shall be writing it to acknowledge and celebrate them all.

We were a motley crew 7 years ago, all driven by an unswerving passion for having something to do with getting organic produce and clean food onto Jozi plates. I’m feeling emotional today about this un-sung heroine who has been a part of our lives for some time.

To all of you who have been eating and buying ‘Aloe Dale’ produce over the years, this incredible woman has been the reason you have been able to do so.

It has been difficult to talk much about Merryn and Aloe Dale and how much difference the purchase of this produce makes behind the scenes because there was a point where we agreed that the projects behind this were too vulnerable to exploitation to be named. It was Merryn’s caution and I know now it was wise to heed.

There was a time when this wasn’t an issue as we all worked together in a very collaborative way and knew that to keep momentum in the food (r)evolution we needed to support all players in the space. We shared information, we trusted people and many of us worked from a place of innocence until it was exploited and then the business men and women we needed to be had to rise to the fore to merge with our activism.

Our innocence changed when the path we had dug attracted more aggressive ‘retail mind-sets’ who started bullying and bringing their own advancement agendas into play the moment they showed up.

The shape of that behaviour usually involves them contacting farms they find through us and then trying to manipulate them into supplying them exclusively and cutting the rest out, a practice that is not conducive to the growth or health of all.

It isn’t good for the small farmer, the small artisan, it isn’t good for the growth of the whole, it isn’t good for any small business to have their growth culled to suit the growth of the ‘retailer’ and it is not good for you as it limits your options of where you can purchase this type of produce from. It is advantageous to the retailer forcing everybody into their narrow hole as they dictate the price but bears no advantage for anybody else in the space. Never mind anti-competitive, the key point for our purpose – is that it is clearly not in the interests of the growth of the (r)evolution.

This space requires collaboration between like minds and hearts. Collectivism in other words – which is the mirror reflection of the interconnectedness of life that we support when we eat organic and support sustainable farmers.

Yet this became a reality as this space took shape and because Merryn has always supported vulnerable projects, she had to protect them from this type of exploitation and manipulation.

We can spend more time now focusing on these projects and bringing the nature of them to the light as they are strong enough now to not yield to the pressure of a retail bully who promises the world and hems in their growth.

So with that said what many don’t know, is that Merryn has been supporting small, local, non-certified growers, who grow produce using organic principles but are not commercially large enough to go for organic certification. She has been involved with projects that have 3 bases – to create employment and food security for vulnerable communities by teaching them how to farm organically and then providing them with income by getting it to us as much as food for themselves.

Whenever you have brought anything from Aloe Dale – you have been providing an income to people who desperately need the money to rise out of vulnerable circumstances, not a corporation.

This kind of buying and selling – where previously unemployed people organize and are given training, coaching and resources by people like Merryn and the projects she supports, means a flow of income to people who need it which does something to help with the gross inequality of wealth we have here while it improves our health with the availability of produce grown without pesticides and artificial fertilisers, and then the soil and environment in turn.

It is time to look back at the road we have walked and the path that was opened by a group of people who gave up much to shape it with your support, and because of you, they have been able to stay in this and we all have a food (r)evolution in Jozi to be a part of.

Every time you brought anything from Aloe Dale, you supported vulnerable communities that needed it.

This is as much a thank you from me to Merryn, for the journey, for staying in this as it is for every one of you that brought Aloe Dale produce and supported her and the sustainable emerging farmers she stands for. I will post up a clip next of one of the projects you are supporting through buying Aloe Dale produce to give you an idea of the impact it makes and the people your purchase makes a difference to.

It must also be said that another of Merryn’s outstanding characteristics for me is that this strong lady has never suffered fools and can spot them a mile off.

She isn’t one to do small talk that doesn’t have substance, she will disrespect you swiftly if you aren’t real and will have your back soundly if you are. Her instincts are always sound. As sound as her loyalty towards the people she fights for and stands up for.

So I’m grateful for how her instinct to protect the vulnerable proved right and for the lessons. I find it hard to not ‘share all’ and her caution that sometimes it isn’t wise, was sound and spot on learning for me.

Merryn grew up around farming and good home made food and says that through-out the worst times of struggle for the businesses viability, one we have all faced and still do, she pressed on because this is the food she wants to eat and the lifestyle she needs to live and believes in.

Thank you for the journey and for staying ‘in this’ with all of us Merryn and for being on this path, the one all real food conscious minds and hearts are on, you have had much to do with the unfolding of the Jozi Real Food (R)evolution, you have been integral to it.

The Jozi Real Food (R)evolution is our place – where all of us meet on one path to create a different food system and stand for the health of the whole – and introducing you all to the people you connect to and are a part of,that walk with you, is an honour.

Debbie Logan.