A Visit to OZCF

The Orangezicht City Farm.

It’s been a while now since I was there, but the Orangezicht City Farm (OZCF) is undeniably one of the most prolific places in Cape Town. The farm acts at the locus for the  non-profit project celebrating local food, culture and community through urban farming and it has been warmly welcomed into the lives and hearts of Capetonians.

The farm employs a small handful of full-time workers, but relies primarily on volunteer work from the community and raises funds through weekly markets hosted on-site. I meandered around the small farm, absolutely bewildered at the lush range of produce that they were growing there. Focusing on seasonal plants and utilizing sustainable and companion farming methods, there is nothing but vibrant green growth on their tiny plot. A small water duct, a compost heap and a green house are all also located on the farm, successfully completing the tiny oasis that was created from an abandoned piece of land. Whilst sitting under their giant oak tree, munching on freshly picked gooseberries, the managing team conducted their weekly meeting: fruit trees, seedlings and newly built structures seem to be part of the things we can look forward to in the future.

All this initial goodness aside, there is a much deeper relevance to their presence in our little town. As stated in their vision statement on their website, this sort of project offers each individual more control in the sense that OZCF offers the opportunity to “understand where it [our food] comes from, who has grown it, how it has been grown and how it has arrived on our plates”. In a world filled with genetically modified crops, food that has been frozen, preserved and generally altered, knowing where our fresh produce comes from can offer a renewed sense of sanity. Psychological stability aside, having the choice to support pesticide-/growth hormone-free, seasonal, fresh food revitalizes the health of ourselves, our local ecosystems, our groundwater, our soil quality and actually even has the power to combat the current global environmental crisis. 

This revolutionary project is subsequently not only appealing to the eyes, stomach and soul, but also begins to form the foundation for a reformed style of living. This has the potential to shift the world out of it’s current food shortage complications as well as mitigating the ever-increasing environmental degradation due to large-scale agricultural farming. Indulge me in a brief historical digression in order to fully demonstrate the relevance of what is being said here: In the 1990’s Cuba experienced an oil and food crisis which nearly destroyed the nation. There was no oil being shipped to Cuba, which means there was also no electricity and no petrol – the two resources our entire modern world requires to function – and Cuba was not receiving any of their usual food imports. This, as expected, brought the nation to its knees with no solution in sight. Cubans however, being the ever resourceful people that they are, bounced back by taking matters into their own hands and instigating a community-based nationwide response through (you guessed it) urban farming.

Empty plots of land, parking lots, rooftops and balconies in the cities were adorned with small crops overseen by the individuals and all food resources were shared through markets, trade or bartering systems. This effort single-handedly rescued an entire nation on the brink of extinction. Furthermore, even after the crisis when Cuba’s oil and food imports recommenced, urban farming remained and it now acts as an integral aspect of their economy. An aspect that reduces their carbon footprint, provides work and a source of income for locals who were previously poverty stricken or uneducated and lessens the use of pesticides and other environmentally damaging substances for the benefit of the entire world. (for more on what happened Cuba, you can either find the documentary “The Power of Community” or visit their website)

And here we have our very own urban farm here in Cape Town – imagine the potential benefits of this project growing to encompass more parts of our town and even other parts of South Africa. Since a piece of land the size of a door can grow enough food to feed a family, urban farms like OZCF could quite literally solve a large portion of the current problems that are crippling South Africa; it could provide work and food for the unemployed and uneducated, it could empower disadvantaged communities through a creation and maintenance of a farm within informal settlements and it could offer cheap, affordable, healthy produce to the entire country. Not shipped or sent, but literally fresh out the ground from a farm or plantation in walking distance of your home.

Less plastic, less poison, less waste, less destruction.
More food, more jobs, better health, happier economy, thriving ecology.

Why is everyone not doing this? OZCF, thank you for showing us the light. Thank you for demonstrating that it’s not a pipe dream and that it can be done. Now, lets all go ahead and actually do it, in our very own gardens, apartments and communities. Today.

For more information on the farm, what they do, how you can get involved or how you can learn from them, please visit their website or Facebook Page.

A Visit to OZCF
Photography: Jamie Dimitra Ashton

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