JFF Rooftop Farm: A Plant Nursery in the Sky

by | Feb 15, 2022 | Food and Drink, Johannesburg, Johannesburg City Centre, Markets/Shopping | 7 comments

I recently moved to a new house, and for the first time in nearly half a century of life I’ve become interested in plants. Actually that’s an understatement: I’ve become obsessed with plants. Most of my plants have names. I spend lots of time googling their care and gazing at them, admiring how they’ve grown and lightly touching their soils to determine if the need to be watered.

The string of bananas succulent on my office window sill. She didn’t have a name up until this moment: I hereby name her Chiquita.

I’ve also become one of those people who will make any excuse to hang out at a plant nursery. So when Thorsten and I were in Braamfontein a couple of weekends ago checking out the new Saturday market, I suggested we stop for coffee at the JFF Rooftop Farm.

JFF Rooftop is a nursery and coffee shop on Juta Street in Braamfontein. But this simple description doesn’t do justice to what an extraordinary place the JFF Rooftop Farm is.

The shop itself is tricky to spot from outside; look for the chalkboard sign on the sidewalk that says “Coffee/Plants”, on Juta Street near the corner of De Beer Street. Walk through the building façade into a shady, peaceful courtyard, and the coffee shop will be in front of you.

JFF co-founder Ashleigh “Ash” Machete in front of the coffee shop. Note the ladder to Ash’s left, which I’ll tell you about in a moment.

The coffee shop and quaint courtyard are nice enough on their own. But to experience the real JFF Rooftop Farm, you have to climb the ladder.

Thorsten climbing the ladder at JFF Rooftop
Thorsten climbing the ladder.

I realize not everyone can climb a ladder and this is the only drawback to the JFF Rooftop Farm. There is another option for those who can’t climb the ladder — I’ll tell you about it at the end of the post. But if you can possibly manage this short climb (I think the ladder has about 15 rungs), I highly recommend it. There is magic at the top of this ladder.

View from the top of the JFF ladder
View from the top of the ladder.
JFF Rooftop Farm
Behold: The JFF Rooftop Farm.

Atop the ladder is this beautiful rooftop garden, with views of Braamfontein’s treetops and skyscrapers and hundreds of lush, green plants. There are a couple of tables and benches and a stunning elephant mural by Cape Town street artist @falko1.

The JFF Rooftop nursery
View of the nursery and a very nice JFF Rooftop staff member, whose name I forgot to ask.
Thorsten at JFF Rooftop with the Falko mural and his iced coffee
Thorsten enjoying his iced coffee (which tasted great), ensconced by green plants and graffiti.
Falko graffiti at JFF Rooftop
I love how the elephant has both real and painted plants sprouting from its trunk.
Succulents for sale at JFF Rooftop
I bought one of these.
Plants for sale at JFF
I wanted to buy one of these too but I restrained myself. (FYI: If you buy a larger plant on the rooftop, the staff lower it down to ground level using an innovative pulley system.)
Half-pink leaf
I love this half-pink leaf.

JFF Rooftop Farm was founded by Ashleigh Machete, a third-generation farmer from Soweto (JFF stands for Jozi Food Farmer), and his partner Negin Monkoe, who was hard at work behind the espresso machine on the day we visited. The farm has been in Braamfontein for a few years and originally started as a herb-supplier for a local restaurant. The farm seems to sell mostly decorative plants now, although there are also some food-bearing plants for sale.

Chilli plant at JFF
The chilli plants looked amazing — I’ll be back for some as soon as I figure out a good place to plant them.

I only had a brief conversation with Ash but he seems like an extremely interesting person. I’m keen to hear more of his and Negin’s stories, which I know I will because I plan on becoming a regular at the JFF Rooftop.

JFF Plant Shop: A Nursery at Ground Level

For those unable to climb the ladder in Braamfontein, JFF has a ground-level shop just up the road at 44 Stanley in Milpark.

The JFF Plant Shop at 44 Stanley
The JFF Plant Shop in 44 Stanley is also quite magical. Note the sign in the window: Ash holds a plant care masterclass here on the first Sunday of each month. I will definitely check that out soon.
Inside the JFF Plant Shop
Inside the JFF Plant Shop.

I feel a strong urge to buy a couple of plants for the house (no surprise there), so I think I’ll head over the JFF Plant Shop tomorrow — it’s basically right in my neighborhood. And I’ll be back at the Rooftop soon for coffee and more plants.

Follow the JFF Rooftop Farm and JFF Plant Shop on Instagram.


  1. AutumnAshbough

    I love being surrounded by green things. That rooftop looks amazing.

    I’m better at outdoor plants than indoor ones, though.

    • 2summers

      I used to be the same when I lived in the US. This could be totally wrong but I think indoor plants might be easier to grow here…since we don’t have central heating/AC and the inside is just more like the outside.

      • AutumnAshbough

        I can never keep orchids alive, to my great sorrow. But I blame SoCal’s low humidity and wide temperature swings.

      • Liesel

        That is such an interesting observation.. I think we have it easier here as well.. and our brick homes are more humid. I even find a difference between the old part of our home built in 1800 and the new part.

        • 2summers

          That’s an interesting angle I hadn’t thought of.

  2. Dave freeman

    Hi Heather! Hope you’re happy and healthy. I too have become obsessed with growing things. Mostly vegetables but I’m branching out to include succulents and other decorative plants. It’s so relaxing and rewarding. I wish you all the best!

    • 2summers

      Aw, thanks Dave! I hope you’re doing well too.


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