This chef proves that bustling cities are the best place to farm
Where does your food come from? Over half of South Africa’s population live in cities, with no direct access to farms. We scour grocery store shelves for the most attractive packaging, rather than the freshest produce. Justin Bonello felt this massive disconnect between what we consume and its origins. So the chef set out to track our daily bread from field to store to dinner table. “We’ve become so reliant on mass-produced, homogenised food that we no longer even know what real food is,” Bonello says. This realisation drove him to dig up his own Cape Town garden, a move that’s led to a city-wide farming initiative.
As a renowned cooking show host and cookbook author, Bonello has spent a good part of his life becoming acquainted with diverse cuisines. To make the shift to farming, he built a greenhouse in his own backyard. Five years later, it has grown into the Neighbourhood Farm. “The idea for starting an urban garden came to me when I realised that there had to be a better way for us to reconnect to our food,” Bonello says. His actions have led to the establishment of outdoor classrooms in schools which teach children about permaculture. The organic produce harvested from these gardens is sold at markets across the Western Cape, enriching communities nutritionally and economically.
The fruits of Bonello’s labour demonstrate that it’s possible and sustainable to grow natural food products in the middle of a concrete jungle. “My true hope for the project is that we change social consciousness and teach everyone to live a better life,” Bonello says. Amid urban congestion and enormous skyscrapers, city-dwellers can unite to create green hubs of nutrition. We just need a little spot of soil and an organic heart.