Writer reaps veggie success

Nonkululeko Britton-Masekela

Digital journalism and organic vegetable farming have never been birds of the same feather, but Nonkululeko Britton-Masekela has ensured the two crafts flock together with equal success.

As a young girl growing up in Midrand, Masekela appreciated the vast tracts of land overlooking her home until she learnt how to grow food organically and in sustainable ways, turning the whole experience into her agri-enterprise.

Masekela, 34, a content creator and grower and seller of organic vegetables is living her dream of growing her own food, the way her subsistence farmer dad did.

The agripreneur, who is a blogger and writes for Huffington Post, has taken her love of tilling the land to another level by turning a hobby into a fledgling business of supplying private individuals, small businesses and greengrocers with her healthy, organic veggies.

"I'm now creating stories around using your backyard to grow your own organic food.

"I'm still doing every thing on a small scale, however, as time goes on I would love to grow big. It's my goal to own a commercial farm.

"The food I grow can be picked and eaten without washing it.

"It's natural because I don't use chemicals and pesticides and pest repellents. We harvest instead of ripping the crops from the ground.

"We remain true to nature and are sustainable as much as possible. The material we use is recyclable. Every thing, including our bags."

After dabbling in a number of fields after graduating as a journalist, including newspapers, magazines, radio and the digital space, Masekela was bitten by the farming bug in 2008, though the business only started three years ago, gaining momentum a year ago.

She took a leaf from her subsistence farmer father's book. The inspiration to appreciate working with the soil also came from one of his lectures when he convinced her that there was no reason for starvation in this world when people have so much land at their disposal.

"I was taken aback when he painted a picture of how much wealth can be derived from the land. That stayed with me after I left varsity, now I'm practising organic farming, although on a small scale.

"I take it as an element of virtual connection. It makes things a lot easier when you do something you love, not for the purpose of money but with the aim of reaping the rewards at a later stage."

So what is Masekela's ultimate goal and mission?

"I want to leave a legacy behind. I've started in a small way but obviously digging deep. It started off as an economic experiment. I wanted to save a few rands on grocery items, more so the fresh produce by using a portion of my parents land,"

Armed with words of wisdom from Amon Maluleke, a shy food-growing expert of the Bertrams Inner City Farm that helps residents transform unused land into food production plots in the Joburg CBD, Masekela never looked back.

"Amon told me that in Limpopo he 'never suffered from hunger until he came to Joburg'. Those words stuck with me. As a small farmer I enjoy stopping at every point to speak about people's business dreams and what drives them."

Masekela did her homework, reading books on growing green organic vegetables, doing her practicals and homework in her own home backyard.

She plants, she tends to the crops, she harvests and packages the produce, specialising in spinach, beetroot and cabbage, with the assistance of a few workers.

She personally delivers to her customers so as to sustain the personal relationship.

"As a wife and a mother the challenge is to be efficient. Knowing how to juggle everything around to fit into your busy schedule. Finding the rhythm can be a challenge at times. But I'm creating my own market. The satisfaction of my clients is a priority.

"The people I supply the produce to know from who they are getting it, who grew it and how it was grown.

"I also encourage them to grown their own food."

X