Public park in Brackenfell transformed into community vegetable garden
With rising food costs urban farming is the way of the future and with the agricultural department on board, a community vegetable garden in Brackenfell is leading the way.
In less than a year the urban farming project in Protea Village has transformed a sandy, unused park into a sprawling one-hectare community garden boasting flowery landscaped walkways and vegetable patches.
The garden yields enough crops for use by residents and a food security programme for needy families in the area.
On Saturday the garden even hosted its first market day sporting 47 stalls and drawing 350 visitors.
“The entire project has been a huge success,” says Mandy Leibbrandt who initiated the project with her husband Frans Byleveld last year February.
The couple formed a non-profit company, Apple Tree, to develop the garden that sits on 2,2 hectares of City-owned land.
The project was born as a result of the pandemic when the couple had to close up shop.
“We suddenly did not have an income and had to act quickly. We decided to start an online fruit and vegetable shop.
“As orders increased we started to deliver across the province and gained insight into several communities.
“We noted how many families lost their income and also how much land and open spaces were available for planting,” she says.
Inspired by another urban farmer close by, the couple approached the City’s parks department in May last year to present their idea.
“The principle was simple.
“Volunteer gardeners in Protea Village would all get a patch of land and work according to their time and resources they could invest into the garden.
“They would plant their own crops for personal use, with the agreement that a part of the crop would go toward the food security programme.”
Helping needy families
To date the project has 38 volunteer gardens and 68 vegetable parcels have been delivered to needy families in Protea Village.
“To our surprise the City was eager to assist and within three months and minimal red tape the processes were finalised.
“We signed a five-year contact with the City for use of a portion of the land and City water.”
The couple were then referred to the provincial department of agriculture who, for the first time ever, got involved with such a project by giving Apple Tree a grant of R171 000 to drill a bore hole for future use.
“The City encouraged us and the parks department expressed their wish to have more residents take ownership of their public parks and the effect it had on the community was phenomenal.
“Where before the park was mostly used by drug dealers to sell their wares, families started using the park, walking their dogs and children through the beautiful landscapes; and gardeners are busy in the park daily,” she says.
More good news is that the agricultural department is now boosting Apple Tree to act as and umbrella organisation to assist other communities with similar projects.
“This is all very exciting and we hope to inspire other neighbourhoods to follow suit by utilising their unused parks for a positive outcome,” she says.
The NPC is set to start their work on other gardens within the next two months.
Apple Tree can be reached at email@example.com for more information.