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13 May Report: iZindaba Zokudla

On the 13th of May iZindaba Zokudla came back after a hiatus after COVID. In 2022 we held 3 events on Campus and partnered with Tim Nectar Farms in Orange Farm for their Food Festival.

The attendance at this meeting was encouraging. We had about 140 people at the event.

This was marketed with 3 SMSes and two emails sent out.

The day was vibrant and participation was very active. Naudé presented the programme for 2023. In 2024 we envisage rolling out a more comprehensive programme. The next event will workshop 13+ technologies and these are all easily implementable, and these technologies (both hard and soft) will constitute the basics of production. Most of them are compatible with agro-ecological, permaculture and organic production, and we need to find a way to implement and reflect on these.

This programme will succeed if we can recruit farmers who implement these technologies and systems. This will enable us to examine the value of these suggestions and build upon them. In the next event, I will be actively recruiting presenters. Once we see how a technology, procedure, idea, or strategy is implemented, we can elevate it to a discussion, learn from it, and innovate upon it. Should I get this right we will be creating a forum where people can learn from each other and move the whole urban agriculture sector forward. In the assembly we heard often that all urban farmers are brand ambassadors for Urban Agriculture. The creation of relationships, learning opportunities, information on new practices, and the development of Urban Agriculture as a “brand” will keep this process together and enable some to learn from others.

This is also the basis of the further development of farms as enterprises. Only if farmers are able to capture the value of what they do, and use this to build durable enterprises will we move forward. Farmers need to be able to capture value, and this value can be captured by systems, organisations, narratives, practices and new innovations. For instance, a brand or name for a farmer will enable people to identify the farm and discuss its offerings. Should the value be real, people will identify it with the farm, and build a story amongst themselves that the farm offers real value. Without a name, no one can add value to the produce!

Farmers also need to build enterprise systems, like financial record keeping and records of sales and customers. This will enable them to communicate with them and build a client base. This client base is the value a farmer will draw on in selling. Only by building real enterprises will the sector move forward, and the offerings need to be upgraded to be able to compete with supermarkets. This may be much easier than it sounds, as urban farmers are able to deliver the highest quality kitchen vegetables and the freshness of an locally-produced product is the true Unique Value Proposition that urban farmers can offer.

Selling food in the right way will also enable value creation and capture. By selling in a way commensurable with the way supermarkets sell produce, will enable comparisons and the creation of competitive alternatives by farmer. This will happen if the produce is sold in a dignified and professional way. By weighing the produce, and perhaps packaging it (in a simple way) will enable this comparison with other sellers. Should this be better value to the customer, the farmer will build a customer base, and this is important as we are now building systems that hold value. This means that tomorrow, when you start your practice again, you will have value that you can build upon.

The training of workers, to be future farm managers or competing farmers, for instance, also builds value. Not only can this expand planting and acreage, but these new farmers can help in building the brand. They will be “home-grown” farmers and this will affect the community and create an employment and career path in the community.

Farmers also need to realise the best way they can help the community is to sell food at a competitive and perhaps better price than supermarkets. I recommend advertising prices as less than 5% of nearby supermarkets. This will enable the farmer to capture the market and is an instance of building value. Making known the good price people will pay at an urban farm will direct customers to the farm. From there bulk sales, specials, food exchange for waste and recyclables, and other sales strategies can be implemented. Farmers would do well to blend selling their own foods with selling bulk purchases from bakkie traders, and this will develop a “shop” where people know good value is to be found. The more value we can build, in records and durability of the enterprise, in the soil and composting, in workers and their human development, in product design and presentation, the better it is for the whole sector.

Farmers need to understand that they have the opportunity to capture a good part of the food market in their immediate areas. The linking of different systems, from soil health to food production, to records, branding and labour in a comprehensive enterprise will enable farmers to not start from Zero, but to build on the narrative and branding of good local food production. We need to all understand that we all are responsible for the growth of this sector. With this iZindaba we have started on a new journey to build the capacity of urban agriculture, and I cannot wait to see how this will turn out this year!

#Phambili Balimi

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