I’ve just landed back from a trip to the Eastern Cape to get the story of an egg farm that sounded like one of those farms that I need to jump on a plane to get to. Heaven knows that obsession of mine to find the best farms in the country has had me doing this over and over again over the past 8 years, dropping everything – including sometimes rhyme and reason – when I hear news of a compelling farm with an organic philosophy. When I hear of them, I just have to get there and this is another one that was way worth the pile of back-log I have to attend to on my return.
This trip was all about finding out whether the claims on Eddie’s Eggs – claims that almost seem to be good to be true were everything they purported to be. They were – and much more. Much, much more.
Their environment and the caliber of farming that brings us a ‘beyond organic’ egg as far as I’m concerned – far more meaningful once I had actually walked this farm and met the inspiration and commitment behind it in Eddie Ferreira.
It served as a reminder to me that authentic connection is what informs this road for us. That my role has always been to connect directly with the producers of your food and then to write in such a way that you – as far as I can make possible – experience what I do when I visit them for you.
I had this crazy realization while I was there – that even I, get a bit lost and lose the connection if I have spent too much time in store mode and in the typical hare-brained pace of a Jozi life.
A natural disconnect creeps up on us in Jozi living if we don’t stop and get back to walking soil and remembering where our food comes from and then we’re treating labels as if they’re information because we have to and they aren’t. I’m seeing so much more stuff and nonsense, deceit and manipulation around labelling. It’s not going to go away, our reliance on labels the symbol actually of our distance to the details of an actual farmer and an actual farm and what it stands for. It never ceases to astound and annoy me – but the more it does – the more I use that anger to motivate me to do the real work – find the farmer, walk the farm – tell the real story. It’s the only antidote out of a retail scene built on over selling illusion and manipulating the goonies out of people.
Sitting in the chaos and disruption of our Jozi store reality and chasing the endless to-do mountains we do here, fighting time and margin monsters, even I get disconnected if I don’t travel to farms.
The focus on keeping this store alive and on the commercial reality of what we have to achieve here can even disconnect me if I stay in it too long without getting to a farm and remembering what the hell we’re doing here in the first place.
When I heard the claims about Eddie’s Eggs, I was thinking far more initially to be ugly honest and entirely frank, about the margins, the cost, the logistics, whether it could be feasible, whether the cost of the farm visit was going to be worth it considering the weakness it brings when I have other retailers not incurring the cost of finding and visiting farms but jumping right onto the phone to try and coax the farmer into supplying them and not you (I’m serious) the moment your pound of flesh, blood and soil is out in the article.
Those were all my considerations before I fully connected with what this farm actually was. Then there was the reluctance to take the time off to leave the store, the anxiety of how that to-do list and the pressure will mount if I’m not here chasing loose ends and trying to keep it all together.
Somehow the reality of Jozi living and the focus on numbers and task realities and margins and logistics and to-do lists had me even disconnect from the most important part of why we are here.
That wasn’t such a pleasant insight about myself I had when I landed my soul on that farm, a moment of harsh but real reckoning with oneself, they’re not always easy but those long hard looks at yourself are necessary – they’re where all growth is at.
When I stood on that farm with Eddie and remembered why I do this – I had a stern talk to myself about never ever second guessing my farm trips again. I couldn’t give much a toss about how it opens up roads for other retailers at my expense – that means I’m doing something right and serving the food revolution I am here to serve. It doesn’t matter that the logistics from this region might be tricky, it’s my work to figure out how we work around these challenges with the farmer. It doesn’t matter that financially these costs aren’t always recoverable in the margin we need to keep this store sustainable – the most important things in life get lost when financial logic rules supreme. I have ways and means of protecting this store from the exploiters who do not have the capacity to collaborate.
What matters is that I have only been able to find the strength to carry on with this road and evolve it – because of what I learn from good farmers who make the rest of life make sense. Men and woman connected to the most over-arching energy of it all – nature’s wisdom and supreme intelligence. That energy, the one ever on our side is mightier than the ego of men who exploit.
I might not become a retail tycoon any time soon but that we may be involved in saving so many lives from the early demise that has become the promise of the Western diet and our lack of access to good food from great farms – is worth more than any frown at whether or not the cost of these trips in resources balances out or not. To support the road of a good farmer is to look after a custodian who reports into the God of nature. That can never ever be defined as a foolish task. So I had my moment of landing back in the impulse of what our journey is all about. A sacred return.
Thanks to a farmer – always thanks to a farmer.
It always balances out because walking fertile soil with the best farmers who serve as custodians of land and its inhabitants and who give us hope for a better future and who make effort to practice regenerative farming are worth gold. They are the reason that my great grandchildren and those that walk this earth after me may still have fertile soil, birds, bees and butterflies and food and a home on earth.
I found something so precious on this farm visit. This farm was more than the labels on the packaging – it was so much more than eggs from hens pasturing on organic citrus orchards, so, so much more.
Read all about my trip to meet Eddie Ferreira and the happiest hens I’ve ever come across in the article on Eddie’s Eggs.
I have a sense this farm is going to be a defining one overall in the SA food ( R) evolution – their capacity to reach so many with eggs of this caliber poised for growth without having to compromise on their principles. This is a farming model that is exceptionally special. I hope I’ve managed to capture the essence of this farm’s specialness in this article for you.
Jan being on holiday came to define September for us. Never were we more reminded about how precious the heritage chickens and eggs are than when we suddenly didn’t have them available for you.
Like with all strengths, they equally function as weaknesses. Being so particular about the farms we source from and choosing non-commercial small family-run farms means that we are not able to simply bring an alternative farmer if one isn’t able to supply us. We need to accept that though it brings many challenges which made September a tough month for us as so many of you had to go for 3 weeks without the chicken and lamb that you have come to love.
We know that this is our weakness, that being so strict about supply means that the range of what we have is up and down and rarely consistent. Sourcing new farms and continually hunting for more that meet our criteria so that we represent a larger network of small farms is the answer and also why I need to focus back on working with new farms and getting out there.
Not an easy task when I am swamped with planning the new store and eatery and all the endless detail that comes with that as well as keeping this store and all its challenges together.
I am blessed with an incredible team though that I can trust to look after our interests when I’m out but the next few months are going to be focused on visiting new farms so that we’re ready for the new store and before I get tied up in the eatery. Once that is built, I think I’m probably going to be living in it for at least the first year. I have an idea I may as well put a mattress on the floor and sleep in it. With the competence of the team I have now and their combined differences and strengths, I’ll be able to leave much of the store side to them and focus on the eatery. I know I’m going to be as particular with that as how I am with the store and won’t be able to relax or rest until the food is where I need it to be.
On that note, finding farms that meet what I’m looking for is just getting easier and easier.
Making friends with feed scientists who make up special feeds for small farmers who farm off the grid and are intent on non-GM input helps and is what led me to the new chicken farm that we brought in last week.
I’ll be off to do that story soon too but the long and the short of it is that this is the equivalent to the Haversham chicken just smaller. I love the way you have your firm favorites in this store, for some of you nothing compares to the 3kg average farm style Haversham whole birds and for others nothing comes close to the heritage chickens. What this new farm gives us is a smaller bird for those of you who love the Haversham chickens but find them too large. These weigh in on average between 1.5 and 1.7 kg’s from a farmer in Bethlehem focused on growing chickens for people on special diets who have cancer. She is pedantic about the feed content – which is why the feed scientist who makes it up for her alerted me to her and she grows her own non-GM maize to finish them on.
We’ll start working with this farm more into the near future and try and get more pieces from them as well as whole chickens.
For those firm heritage chicken fans who have been missing them – Jan will be back this Thursday re-stocking us and we cannot wait. I’ll put a post up on Instagram and Facebook once they are in.
Brennaissance Boran steaks will also be back in on Thursday. You are going to have to braai this week-end with the rush of the best coming in for the week-end and I’m going to be urging you to try the African coleslaw recipe I’m going to give you – it’s worth making.
Other quick bites of news and stand out new things in the store – my peak coffee experience of all time, in bottled glasses are in. This coffee is a charm for serious coffee drinkers, grown on the slopes of Mt Elgon by small rural communities located at the base, this is the only region in Uganda where Arabica grows. Arabica needs high altitudes and the beans grown on this slope have something truly special.
I will never be able to stop writing them – I’m a writer – and cannot ever not be. The words never dry up nor the need to offer up this connection, this way, for people who can hear it but to temper it for those that this doesn’t work for – we keep you as up to date with short snippets on Instagram and FB and we’ll always do short videos when we have a gap because you seem to love them and it can be refreshing to have a face talking to you amidst the constant influx of social media bits and sound bites.
Other than that, the broadcast list for those who want whatsapp messages of new stock in and out is nearly ready, look out for the form near the till to add your number if you want to be a part of that.
To those of you who mailed me your numbers to be added – thank you – noted and we’ll be done with that soon.
The best news of all is that Sam is back with us and recovering well. Having him back in the mix, watching him pick up weight and return to his old self has been a very special time for us. We very nearly lost him and it was a deeply terrifying time.
Thank you so much to all of you who wrote letters of care and support to him and us during that hellish period. I have saved them all and going to make a book of them and bind it as a gift to Sam.
I will never forget the support and love that poured in when he was in hospital, I have saved your words so that Sam gets to keep them forever. Bless you and thank you. I will never forget your support over that time.
Last but not least, I want to give you a recipe that I’m loving at the moment. Think of it as an African take on coleslaw. Much of the harvest table at the eatery is going to focus on using African indigenous produce sourced from small growers to re-connect us to the wisdom of our own African produce and to center our food buying around some of the most important custodians of our country’s biodiversity – the small-scale African traditional farmers. So playing around with recipes and experimenting with these food is a bit of an obsession for me at the moment.
Much ratty about how the incredible probiotic wisdom of African amasi has been marginalized, this is one clever food I want us to do more with. It irks me silly that we’re all talking about kefir when amasi is our African version of that, so clever that in studies done by Dr Richard Mokua it was found to be such a powerful probiotic that it was able to destroy e-coli. Destroy it. Yet like so many things African it has been banished as poverty backward food in a humiliating and damaging history and we’re all running around looking for kefir which I find crazy and injurious. Enough already, we need to be celebrating the wisdom of this incredible food.
We are African – we live in Africa – and it is African wisdom that we need to turn towards.
This is my take on coleslaw the African way using organic produce I’ve been inspired by over the last week. It uses the Urban Fresh red baby cabbages, Aloe Dale’s super sweet small red onions and carrots – and has the addition of marula nuts (African version of pine nuts just better), some Turkish mulberries for sweetness and then a clever probiotic mayonnaise made with amasi and baobab.
I hope you enjoy it.
Time to love and leave you , see you in-store!