If somebody asked me what the single most important thing is that I have learnt in my life so far I would say "gardening," without hesitation.
I have a privileged background, can speak three languages bagged from an international education and a University degree. But even with all of that, I still think that my education in gardening has been the most valuable to me and most of it came for free from the garden gurus of my past.
My mom's mom was in love with flowers and always had a little garden full of gems and intrigue. Despite living in dry parts of the country, she relentlessly kept a green pocket at the front of the house where something was always flowering. My mom inherited that from her and kept it alive in all the houses that we lived in.
The garden I remember better than all the rest was the great big mining property garden of my childhood. There was an insanely massive rolling lawn. A vegetable garden likened to a royal's, an orchard, a tennis court, swimming pool, rose garden housing 1000s of rose bushes, secret gardens, a couple of forests and at least 4 of the most epic climbing trees I've ever known. This garden was my mom's pride and she shared it with the community in such a generous way that it became something that most people in the area could enjoy in some way.
My Leb-rikaans family from Bloemfontein on my dad's side were total homesteaders. They grew all their own veg and fruit and presented the most epic fresh, bottled or frozen goods all year round. The garden was their occupation after retirement. By them I was inspired to play in the garden - games like "market vendor-market vendor". But then, maybe that's just a Leb thing.
I never thought that gardening was going to be a career choice and then later on a side-hustle with the aim of building South Africa's next big gardening brand ;). When I left University with my degree, which was not enough for the likes of the Resource Economics jobs I was aiming for, I used gardening to meet people, help people and keep myself out of mischief.
In the beginning I renegaded a community garden in Kylemore, Western Cape. I applied for it to be part of the Dpt. of Agri's Sustainable Agricultural tour of that year and used that as a networking session to meet the heavy hitters on the scene.
I had at that point already met Pat Featherstone from Soil For Life, but this tour put me on the map as much as it did the Kylemore garden and gave me a chance to prove my passion. I was sponsored a place in the following Permaculture Design Course in Cape Town and soon after that I applied for a job with Pat, and my first paid employment in my field began in her outstanding NGO - Soil For Life.
Pat taught me everything that I wanted to know about how to empower people through gardening. How to take nothing and make something, even something that can generate an income or a livelihood. And beneath all the lessons about enterprise and community development there was real science and agriculture. It was so exciting and so incredibly enriching.
This blog post is a tribute to the O.G.s (original gardeners) of my life. Most of whom I will never be able to thank personally. I have taken the baton and promise to carry it to the future - my children and their friends and family, and anyone who wants to learn about what it takes to plant a seed in order to put food on the table.