Hidden away in the Joburg inner city, unknown to thousands of people who pass by every day, is a small farm producing massive quantities of fresh vegetables and healthy juices.
The products of the inner city farm are used not only to feed children at the Early Childhood Centers(ECDs) and the local community, but it also supplies good quality juices to many local gyms.
While it is unusual for an entire farm to be located within the city, Bertrams food garden is located just a street away from Ellis Park. Also known as Fifi’s Farmacy, the entire operation is headed by 59 year-old Refiloe Molefe who says feeding children nutritious food has always been her passion.
Molefe and other ECD teachers around Johannesburg were trained by Nestle on how to create food gardens to feed good and healthy produce to children back in 2007. And from then, Molefe’s inner city farm started to take shape.
“I fell in love with the programme, and so I decided to start my small farm right here in the inner city,” she said “I have committed myself to supplying healthy foods to the ECDs around the city,” she said, explaining that she wanted to teach children the importance of healthy eating from a young age.
She says the ECD centres bring their children to her to learn about farming, healthy eating and how to make healthy juices “It is good to teach children at an early age about what is good for their bodies,” says Molefe.
Molefe’s garden has many different kinds of vegetables, rotating each season “I have many vegetables and the community benefits from my garden,” she said. Many of them are sold, but she also gives away to those in the community who cannot afford to buy “As for the ECDs, I give them everything for free always because I want the children to be healthy,” she added.
Molefe said her interest in farming grew out of her wish to see people stop needing to see doctors “I don’t like it when people consult doctors because they pay a lot for chronic medication. But if they choose to stay healthy they wont be spending so much money on doctors,” she said.
Molefe also supplies her juices to gyms across Johannesburg. She makes them herself in her kitchen which is located in the farm. She makes green juice from spinach, green apples, pineapple and ginger. Her dark red juice is made from beetroot, green apple and ginger and she also has pineapple juice and orange juice.
In partnership with the City of Johannesburg, Molefe is now training women across the region on agro processing to know how to make healthy juices from vegetables. The idea is that the women will learn from her and go on to make their own livings.
Elen Thibedi, who is an ECD teacher in Johannesburg, said that the Bertrams food garden is very important to the people of Joburg.
“Molefe gives good food education to our kids,” she said, adding that they loved the healthy juices “Their taste buds have grown used to those juices and healthy foods, which will help them to grow up wanting healthy foods,” said Thibedi.