Last week, when I published a post about my cycling tour with Honest Travel, I mentioned our visit to the Bertrams Inner City Farm. I decided that visit was far too brief to give the farm proper justice in my blog. So I went back again yesterday.
Here’s some background on the Bertrams Inner City Farm. It’s one hectare — the size of a couple of football fields — and as the name implies, it’s right in the middle of the city. Bertrams is one suburb over from Hillbrow and the farm sits across the road from Ellis Park Stadium. A wide variety of vegetables grow on the farm: spinach, cabbages, lettuce, onions, potatoes, morogo (African spinach), herbs, and many other things I couldn’t see yet because it’s barely the end of winter.
The farm sells produce (both fresh and dried) and homemade juices to consumers, and also feeds the surrounding community through a variety of initiatives. The farm currently runs a soup kitchen on Tuesdays and Thursdays, feeding as many as 150 people each time.
Refiloe “Fifi” Molefe cofounded the farm 16 years ago. Mama Fifi, aged 60, is originally from Mafikeng but grew up in Alexandra Township. Fifi lost her mother when she was an infant, but she learned to grow food from members of her extended family. “I learned from our grandmothers,” Fifi told me. “They did not have money, but they had food.”
Fifi worked for many years as a home health nurse and a childcare worker. Over the years, she began to notice the people she cared for lacked one thing above all else: nutritious food. Although she lived in the city, Fifi could see there was plenty of space to grow things. That’s when Fifi moved into farming.
Fifi does not have any formal agricultural training, but it doesn’t take a trained eye to see this woman has a God-given talent for making things grow. She is also an organizer of note. Today, Fifi trains teams of agricultural students to make food all over South Africa.
When I visited the farm on the tour last week, something felt vaguely familiar. Fifi and I chatted up a storm but neither of us recognized the other right away. It was only as I was leaving that I remembered I’d visited the Bertrams Inner City farm once before.
I went home, checked my blog, and found a post about a photowalk in Bertrams in 2011. There, in that post, was Mama Fifi.
The Bertrams Inner City Farm has won all kinds of awards and grants, and it seems like Fifi and her staff are always thinking up new and exciting projects. But it’s also clear the farm is operating on a shoestring budget. They make their delicious juice in a small, domestic-sized juicer. The team also needs a laptop (for all these new Zoom meetings, Fifi says), a website, and lots of other things.
Please Support the Bertrams Inner City Farm
It’s been a while since I’ve solicited donations to a worthy cause on this blog. But now is the time. I would really like to help Mama Fifi and the staff at Bertrams Inner City Farm raise some cash for the tools they need to expand their business. The laptop is first in line, along with baking machinery so they can start making bread, an industrial-sized juicer, shade-netting for the plants, a chicken coop, and probably a dozen other things Mama Fifi didn’t have a chance to mention.
If you live in South Africa and would like to support the farm, here are Fifi’s banking details:
Account #: 62498867690
Branch code: 250805 (FNB Bank City Branch)
If you live overseas, you can send a donation to me via PayPal using the following link: paypal.me/2summers. I will then send the money to Fifi.
Or best of all, you can support the farm by buying their produce, juice, and dried vegetables. Fifi delivers. Please contact her at 071-781-9194 to place an order.
Thank you Mama Fifi for embodying all the best things about Joburg.
The Bertrams Inner City Farm is at 46 Bertrams Road, Bertrams.
I’m so grateful that she is basically just down the road from me, I often walk around with her selecting what I want while chopping on a carrot I’ve just pulled from the earth.
I can’t wait until summer so I can do that too.
I wish I could meet Mama Fifi….AND buy some veggies from her. SO I just sent a donation instead!
Got it – thank you so much Nancy.
Mama Fifi is awesome!
Imagine all the skills needed to set up such an operation. Agricultural, organizational, financial, marketing, human resources, networking… She must have incredible energy and passion.
As your photos demonstrate!
She’s just an incredible person.
This is really cool. More urban farming needed everywhere.
For sure. And it works so well in Joburg.
Great story. I tried to send money but paypal
me didn’t recognize 2summers.
Hi John Doe, thanks so much! That’s weird…it’s worked for everyone else. I will send you an email to follow up.
Great job here on Farming With Mama Fifi
I read a lot of blog posts and never heard of a topic like this. I love this topic you made about Farming With Mama Fifi very ingenious.
Christmas Then and Now