Before I actually had the pleasure of meeting Jacques Damhuis, this incredible man had almost become an urban legend in my world. There were so many times when customers would talk about some other worldly biodynamic, permaculture project right in the middle of Beulieu.
‘Debbie, please go and see this man and what he’s doing, it’s so special’, I heard on so many occasions.
A biodynamic ecohydrological permaculture farm in Jozi?
It sounded too good to be true. Until I got there and discovered just that. A biodynamic, permaculture eco hydrology project whap bam in the middle of our urban Jozi chaos.
With life just being busy and to-do lists being the endless Mt Kilimanjaro entities they are, I didn’t get to it and then I received a more urgent mail from a customer urging me to please get hold of him. It had the same tone that I had heard from others, a desperate need to get support to this man and this farm. Clearly, people felt that they had found something too special to lose.
Whoever this man was, he was clearly capturing hearts, arresting souls and grabbing people’s attention.
Clearly something was going on in Beaulieu. After some missed mails and failed phone call attempts, I finally had Jacques Damhuis on the line and our dialogue began. About his work, about how this special farm came to be, and about what was necessary for its continuation going forward.
One of my customers (who like the best of them has become more of a friend really) had even sent aerial pictures of the project to show the marvel it is.
From the sky, a fascinating, spiral odyssey and from the ground, a beautiful water wise permaculture garden of balance, sense and nutrient – depth.
It stands there almost ethereal. You’re in Johannesburg and without getting out of the bustle of northern suburb travails, you just are one minute in that and the next – there.
In an entirely magical world. Just. There.
How on earth did it take me so long to just listen to what customers were telling me, I asked myself as I stepped into this permaculture wonderland.
What Jacques has created here is something profoundly unique and the success of it gives us not only access to local organic food in the freshest way possible but also access to a man who has so much to teach and offer.
One of the things that stands out tall for me about Jacques, is his passion for wanting to teach what he knows.
This is clearly inspiring as people who have attended his ‘Tea and Tour’ events leave feeling spiritually full it seems. He has so much to share and is fast becoming a beacon of light and hope in a town we could argue is in desperate need of both.
We’re also in desperate need of locally grown organic produce. That short distance between coming out of the soil and ending up on your plate, a rarity and treasure indeed.
Jacques has a particular passion for eco hydrology and designing edible landscapes around the principles of permaculture and biodynamic farming.
An NGO brought the land for him to set up a garden to grow food for orphans and this is where the beginning of this garden’s existence begins.
The panic I was hearing from people was about the fact that the project’s funding had ended and whether or not it could continue was the pressing topic.
The existence of this farm began many years earlier though I’d say in Jacques childhood where he shares fond memories of growing food with his grandmother from the age of three.
Growing food, harvesting food, cooking it and then eating it was how Jacques grew up. He brings that gift to us – in an age when that connection has been lost and retail chains and food companies took over our pantries and we became disconnected from the entity that was supposed to feed us – nature and her custodian – farmers.
I find him almost as ethereal in that sense as the idea of this farms existence. This man has created, a spiral of life and nourishment out of barren soil.
Yet, it isn’t ethereal and neither is he. It’s solid and real and there is a bewildering sensibility as well as progressive philosophy of sustainability that informs every aspect of its design. From the placement of the dam to catch water and ensure it flows in the most water wise way to the rest of the farm.
To the way the embankments are designed to let water flow from top to bottom, with plants that need more water placed at the bottom and others at the top. To the ducks in that dam, there to fertilise the water naturally, to the spirals of compost lines feeding this cyclical system of nourishment. There isn’t anything random to this magic – it is a very literal meeting place of earth and the interconnected ethereal – bridged by water. In other words – an eco-system designed for longevity and sustainability.
Every purposeful spiral, designed to maximise the use of water and rain water from the surrounds bringing an abundance of treasure in the form of beautiful produce and medicinal herbs.
The evolvement of this project is going to be something special. Now that there is an appreciative and live market connected to this delight, we can help support its longevity.
Once I’d been there and met Jacques, I understood why people wanted him and his land protected as much as they did. Jacques Damhuis and Growing Healthy Farms is a treasure that should be available to all that want to support a local, sustainable treasure that should be protected by us all.
From candy-colored beetroot, heritage multi colored carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, a never-ending range of nutrient dense and medicinal greens, heritage tomatoes in all shapes and sizes, and so much more, I’m excited for us to be able to connect to all year-round local produce from Jacques Damhuis.
I’m equally excited about the idea of people in Jozi being able to spend time with him, on his courses gaining skill to participate in this earth revolution of ours. I think time there, will re-connect you to your own gardening and raise the skills we need to become more able to grow our own food too.
His work is vital for Jozi green hearts and souls.
The quality of his soil and his understanding of the interconnected nutrient cycle of all life that informs every step of that project results in the most incredibly healthy, tasty as all hell, produce that we’ve all just fallen in love with. It’s becoming so exciting to wait and see what he’ll have an abundance of each week so that we can get it into the store.
Jacques Damhuis and Growing Healthy Farms – A beacon of hope and light indeed.
Check out their FB page to stay abreast of his courses and the evolvement of this Jozi biodynamic wonderland.
Growing Healthy Farms needs to stay and we’ll do everything we can, with you, to make sure this incredible man and his incredible visionary project becomes more deeply embedded here.