Bathurst residents responded well to an initiative by the Port Alfred Soup Kitchen last Thursday to help people grow their own vegetable gardens.
Farming God’s Way is a method of subsistence farming which has been championed by the PA Soup Kitchen for a number of years. The goal is to help communities become self-sustainable, beyond the thousands of meals the soup kitchen has been providing to impoverished people every week.
Soup Kitchen chairman Craig Ellis and long-time volunteer and former farmer Leon Coetzee conducted lessons at Velile Secondary School in Nolukhanyo. Twenty-three residents attended, who were divided into two groups.
While one group watched videos showing how to plant vegetables, mealies and fruit, the other was applying the knowledge obtained through watching those videos. Ellis gave explanations to the elders discussing the videos while Coetzee was leading the practical in the garden.
The videos showed soil preparation before planting, the appropriate of way of making measurements, how to plant a seed or seedlings and the proper way of irrigating vegetables.
Ellis encouraged the importance of continuous farming by rotating vegetables that grow under the soil, like carrots, potatoes and beetroot, with vegetables that grow above the soil like spinach, cabbage and mealies. He asserted that this way of continuous farming keeps the soil rich with nutrients.
In the garden, Coetzee echoed Ellis’ words to the practical group, saying: “It’s like a calendar – you plant vegetables according to the seasons. There are vegetables for spring and there are vegetables for summer. After harvesting you can always plant something else without planting the same thing.”
Ellis described the initiative as self-sustainable, explaining the soup kitchen was not sustainable because it needed some funds to keep going.
Commenting on Farming God’s Way, he said: “What I like about this is that there is not too much difference from what they learned from their forefathers. It’s just small changes. The other thing I like about this is that they don’t have to work so hard to break their backs. When their children see them doing it and cannot find jobs, with this they can sustain themselves.”
According to Coetzee, next month they will start planting vegetables together as a group in one garden.
Enthusiastic attendees wasted no time telling Ellis and Coetzee that they were already applying their knowledge at home in their own gardens.
Encouraged by the response, Ellis revealed that Rotary Club of Port Alfred and Buco had committed to assist them by sponsoring equipment like spades, forks and hoes to incentivise the person with the best garden.