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So much more than great food - the Midlands

Story by Deni Archer

“The best place on earth”

I don’t think you’ll find anyone who lives in the Midlands (KZN) who doesn’t think it’s just the best place on earth. That was our experience anyway, and we talked to a lot of people while we were there. They have a point. The green rolling hills make for a very hospitable landscape where just about any food you can imagine seems to grow vibrantly. We visited organic vegetable gardens and farms, a number of small scale farms producing eggs, dairy, duck, chicken, trout, cheese, a brewery, and a couple of ‘conscious eating’ cafes. 

Cultivating community

But there’s more to the midlands than an abundance of food – the sense of community we witnessed was remarkable, and the people passionate about cultivating this even more. From Paul and Shereen at Dovehouse Organics who have taken it upon themselves to bring permaculture practices into the community and provide a hub for people to learn about health and sustainability, to Nikki Brighton from Dargle who founded the Dargle Market, and hosts thought-provoking film evenings. Nikki takes the idea of locavore to the next level, believing it is critical to create a resilient community that can look after itself. Dargle is a little place, but their market showcases only Dargle produce. “People from neighbouring areas keep asking if they can join the market but we want to keep it local, so I ask them “do you think you live in Dargle?” because if they do, then they can come, but if not, then we won’t be true to ourselves,” says Nikki.

Making organics accessible

We also saw people working earnestly to bring organic food into the mainstream. Rob Symms and his partner Nora run Broadleaze Organic farm and are passionate about providing high quality organic produce to the public at the same price as conventionally grown goods. They’re being so successful at this that they now supply most of the Food Lovers Markets in KZN, and can’t keep up with the demand. Similarly, Gregg Oosthuizen owner/chef at Green Valley Restaurant is on a mission to provide good, clean, real food to his customers at no extra cost. He sources most of his produce within a couple kilometres of the restaurant (much from the same property which is shared with Dovehouse Organics), and caters the Harvest Table on Sundays which is a buffet style lunch showcasing a wide range of dishes (including raw cuisine) made with high quality organics and catering to sensitive dietary requirements.

Living consciously

Food aside (just for a moment), we also had the opportunity to meet people doing other earth-conscious activities. Like Tasha Saha, yoga teacher and “newly vegan” creator of organic skincare range Mioja, who is walking the talk and doing her bit to live lightly. We also had the opportunity to stay with Carl Bronner at her farm, Old Kilgobbin, where she is raising horses naturally, and exploring the connection between humans and horses through her Horseplay workshops. Her horses were truly something to behold, and our experience with them unforgettable.

There seems to be a certain kind of magic in the Midlands that allows for such an abundance of creativity and sensitivity to the world to thrive. Go there. You’ll discover a lot more than great food.

So-much-more-than-great-food---the-Midlands

Shereen and Paul from Dovehouse with their daughter Taya (their two sons were off playing out on the farm when this was taken)

So-much-more-than-great-food---the-Midlands

Click here to read the story on Dovehouse Organics

Gram Jackson is the permaculture hero at Preston Organics. He is also trained in phytotherapy and hopes to start a centre of health at the farm.

So-much-more-than-great-food---the-Midlands

Nora and Rob Symms run Broadleaze organics. They are passionate about removing the stigma that organic food is elitist.

So-much-more-than-great-food---the-Midlands

Gregg runs Green Valley Restaurant. He is also the chef and aims to provide his customers with clean food at a reasonable price.

So-much-more-than-great-food---the-Midlands

Nikki Brighton is a champion of local resilience in her community of Dargle. She writes the blog Dargle Local Living, and tries to raise awareness on sustainability issues in her area.

So-much-more-than-great-food---the-Midlands

Tasha is a "newly vegan" yoga teacher. She has also developed a great organic skincare range, known as Mioja.

So-much-more-than-great-food---the-Midlands

Some of Carl's horses at Horseplay. She explores the connection between humans and horses with her naturally reared horses.

So-much-more-than-great-food---the-Midlands

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