By Shireen Freeman
I was asked to write an article about myself for this publication and I soon realized that what has made my journey towards self-sufficiency so profound are the amazing people and projects that have crossed my path along the way. My story is rich because of them! One of the most important things I have learned on this journey has been that the more self-sufficient we strive to become, the more we realize the importance of community! Sustainability recognizes that sharing and giving and inclusivity are vital components in learning to thrive.
It all began when I was 15 years old, living in the middle-class suburbs of Cape Town. I discovered a hidden gem, 10 mins from the city centre: an urban farm next to sprawling wetlands slap bang in the middle of major highways, train stations and urban sprawl. It very quickly became my sanctuary and a welcome diversion from the increasingly confusing “adult world” I was seeing around me. I worked in the gardens and learned to bake bread in the wood fired ovens, made jams and preserves and helped load the horse carts every evening that went out into the neighbouring suburbs selling the farm’s produce. I met the most amazing people and the seeds of determination to create a self-sufficient life was planted deep within me.
One of highlights of my journey was moving to Hogsback in the Eastern Cape: a remote rural village, high up in the Amathole mountains. It was here that I discovered Terra-Khaya (terra meaning “earth” and khaya being the isiXhosa word for “home”) and I was able to immerse myself in a living, growing and thriving Permaculture farm and off-grid backpackers for eco-travellers. I will never forget Justin and Gervaise (now living in Greyton) who created a Permaculture Food Forest at Terra-Khaya, which 10 years later is still a thriving self-sustaining oasis of edibles and biodiversity. I learned so much from this experience, which I am ever grateful for.
Recently I moved to a small rural village in the Overberg, near Greyton, where I had the honour of meeting and working with Marshall Rinquest, director of the Greyton Transition Town. At the start of the covid lockdown in 2020, the Greyton Transition Town partnered with the local Red Cross and other humanitarian initiatives in the area and came up with a truly sustainable solution to create food security in the Greyton and Genadendal areas.
The short-term goal was to get weekly food parcels out to families and individuals in need, but they also recognized the limitations of this effort. It was then that the Valley Food Gardens project was born with the vision of actively supporting community members to grow their own food. A year and a bit later and many, many home gardens are thriving in the valley with ongoing support – again making it clear that unity really is found in community.
And finally, it was also at Terra-Khaya that I had the privilege of meeting Tim Wigley; one of the most incredible teachers and humans I know. He lives, breathes and inspires the true essence of Permaculture and Regenerative practices through his Heart of Permaculture workshops and retreats. This year, I invited him to host a retreat at the Greyton EcoLodge, which was truly life-changing for the diverse group of participants who attended.
They were able to connect with Nature in a truly visceral way: because without a true sense of belonging to the natural world, we cannot fully feel our connection to it. The most important community we have is the diverse and intelligent community of the natural world, with nature and all her amazing eco-systems. If all we do is learn to live in harmony with the natural word, we are making it a better place.
Who has been a beacon of light on your journey towards self-reliance and sufficiency? I would love to hear about it! Feel free to connect with me at www.growinghome.org.za
You can also find out more about the Greyton Transition Town, here: https://www.greytontransitiontown.org.za/