I got to spend some time with Mandy at Mooberry last week, catching up on what is going on with one of our small, favourite, local farms. I had gotten there a bit too late so was there before dusk,  just in time to see the cows resting before being put in the barn for the night.

Mandy remarked that it was her favourite time of the day to see the cows, they come in from the surrounding fields all relaxed and always lie in the same spot that you see in the picture above, just rustig. I’ve always said that Mandys cows and Keiths cattle are very literally the most contented cows I have ever seen. Always at peace in environments that contain little stress for them.

I didn’t get any pictures of the chickens as they’re on holiday! They were moved to a farm in Heidelberg over December to be looked after by a farmer friend of Mandys so that her family could have a holiday. They have been having a hassle with a local gennet that has been helping himself to chicken, so   it was best to have them sent off for the holidays. They’ll be back shortly, then I’ll go back and take some proper pictures for you.

I also managed to get a shot of your favourite yoghurt being made in the kitchen.

This small, local farm is very special to me. It’s been around very close to the beginning of Organic Emporium’s history and we’ve walked a long road.

Mandy is an entrenched food hero for Jozi, in fact probably one of the first.

We still have a way to go to get the diet more and more natural as Mandy gets more experienced with this. There currently isn’t anybody doing chickens or dairy locally that knows how to do it on Jozi pasture without supplement feed so it’s a long-term exercise of trial and error.

For the moment, the cows are getting more than enough on around 90% of their diet being on natural grazing, 10% of it is supplemented with a grain feed at milk time. The supplement feed has no antibiotics or growth promoters in it.

They are hand milked twice a day and what always strikes me most at Mandy’s is that these are loved by the entire family.

Mandy loves her cows. You feel that whenever you’re there and she’s chatting about them, it’s not very different to how a mother chats about her kids. She’s proud of them. She says that she never wants to get large and have larger herds or have to expand beyond what she has.

She wants to get by with running their farm, small, local and committed to quality.

So it is imperative that as the food revolution gains momentum, that we support more small, local farmers so that they are able to sustain themselves, their farms, their lifestyle and their families comfortably. We want a network of smaller family run farms to return, who can happily on our customer without having to compromise on the values that make small scale family farms as attractive to us as they are because they’re just farming properly without conveyor belt efficiency. It can be done, we just need to be a larger consumer group and we’re growing month by month.

I’m proud of Mooberry. It’s been ever challenging but year on year things just get better there and these cows are consistently happy, her Boschvelders consistently plucky with space to dust bath and scratch around in the dirt.

The only sadness on the farm is around one of her cows that had a miscarriage last year, she has never been the same and is withdrawn and depressed since and chooses not to engage with other animals. It’s a very sad story for Mandy but is testament to how impacted animals are by their environment and their calves. Calves are never ever removed from their mothers at Mooberry. When they need to wean them off the mothers milk at 6 months, they don’t separate them, they put a rubber sort of dummy on their mouths, that doesn’t hurt or harm at all, it just makes drinking from the mother uncomfortable so that they gradually get used to not drinking from her but they remain with their mothers at all time. This is a big deal, calves being removed from their mothers in conventional dairy farms often immediately is one of the industry’s greatest cruelties, small family run farms don’t have to separate mothers and their calves and because they aren’t doing mass volumes, can still get enough for us even while the calves are feeding still from their mothers.

Mandy is starting a new sprout growing program to try and see whether a large supplement of sprouted grasses grown organically can serve as a supplement feed rather than grain growing forward. With dairy, you obviously can’t risk getting their diet wrong or their milk production slows right down, so it has to be done delicately on a trial and error basis.

Mandys is also growing loads of her own organic vegetables that she uses to top up the animals with.

Mooberry Farm is one of the first of its kind, a local, family-run farm supplying Jozi residents with properly farmed eggs and dairy.

I’m ever proud to be associated with them and stand behind them.

Mooberry Farm is a contributing farm to the Jozi Real Food Revolution and an asset to us all.