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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.