Non-profit grows fresh produce in challenging times

Justin Bonello

Neighbourhood Farm – deemed an essential during lockdown – is working non-stop to provide the community with fresh produce.

Neighbourhood Farm is a non-profit that grows food in an urban setting to improve nutrition in schools and communities, while creating public awareness about environmentally sustainable farming.

Founder Justin Bonello says working during lockdown does not come without challenges. There has, he says, been a sharp increase in the demand for local food in a safe space and he and the team have been working 24/7.

The supply of other essential products such as packaging, seeds and seedlings are intermittent or impossible to source, jeopardising their ability to grow and deliver, he says.

All three farms, one at Komme-
tjie Primary School, one at False Bay Hospital and the other at Laerskool Paul Greyling, are running at full
capacity but the farm stalls are now only open from 10am to 4pm so they can be thoroughly cleaned twice a day.

Customers must wash their hands on entry and all staff, including shopkeepers, management and farming employees wear face masks.

Only two customers are allowed in at a time and are asked to practise physical distancing.

Staff were also briefed and provided with information sheets to enable them to be Covid-19 proactive but they still felt exposed, says Mr Bonello.

Mr Bonello says Neighbourhood Farm isn’t big enough to donate its produce.

“We have to protect the 25 staff that earn their income from us, and if we don’t sell produce, we won’t be able to pay our staff their wages and salaries. Our viewpoint is that it is critical to protect and preserve as many jobs as possible, especially for our under- resourced community members or a greater crisis will unfold.”

He says it’s also been hard playing the role of both farmer and teacher.

“My children’s school has issued homeschooling sheets which my wife and I have to try and complete after work.”

Produce is on sale at the Kommetjie Primary School farm stall opposite the Shell Garage in Kirsten Road from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm and on Sundays from 10am to 3pm. The shop at the False Bay Hospital in Paris Road is open the same hours and both stalls stock fresh produce as well as dairy and meat.