By turning their garden into a harvest for their community, a Hout Bay couple is sharing the gift of organic nutrition.
Across the road from the Imizamo Yethu informal settlement in Hout Bay lies Sacred Ibis, a community gathering space for consciousness and compassion, run by husband-and-wife team Michelle Reid and Gordon Aeschliman. While its sweat lodges and drumming sessions bring joy to many in the community, it’s the abundant garden at the back that’s making the most difference to peoples’ lives. ‘Almost four years ago, we started planting a small bed in what used to be a dry paddock,’ explains Michelle, ‘and now it’s the size of a rugby field.’
This fully-organic garden of broccoli, turnips, kale, marrows and more has become the heart of the couple’s not-
for-profit venture, Gracie Love in a Bowl. Through it, they have turned a simple plan to grow food for their community into a project that last year supplied 60 000 meals, mostly to children and the aged living in Imizamo Yethu and the Hangberg fishing community.
We wanted to have a deeper weave with our community, find ways to build bridges and live a life that’s less separate,’ says Gordon, referring to the noticeable economic divide in Hout Bay. His life’s work has been dedicated to youth development and urban-food production.
The couple’s philosophy of never saying no to anyone in need – and being particularly motivated to provide children in their developmental years and elderly folk on medication with healthy, organic food – led them to make and CHEMALYdeliver meals themselves. Now, they work with eight food kitchens in Hout Bay, sending weekly packages of fresh veggies that are cooked into stews and soups for various community groups. Hout Bay hospitality institutions have jumped on board, too, donating organic leftovers, spelt, coffee grounds and pizza ash to the project, which are all mixed into a healthy compost to keep the garden soil nutrient-rich.
‘Showing up at the table is very important,’ says Gordon, by way of describing their continued commitment. With volunteers helping to renew beds, turn compost and make deliveries, they’ve managed to keep costs down to produce R4 meals, helping their donor-funded project to reach as many people
‘It feels like an extended family now,’ Gordon continues, ‘like we’re growing friendships.’ The trust they’ve built in their wider community through the gift of food is going a long way to forming a dialogue between people who would otherwise never meet.
‘We’re working together to build a new story for South Africa.’