It was a chilly, drizzling Saturday morning with rainbows appearing, disappearing and reappearing in the skyline. I had heard about the Oranjezicht City Farm (OZCF), tucked between urban plots on the base of Table Mountain in downtown Cape Town sometime last year. There were rumors of an old, abandoned bowling green now producing food, tended to by the community. It was one of those places that I always meant to stop by to see what they’re up to over there.
Well, you know how that goes sometimes..but half a year later, today was the day!
I had read up on Mary Murphy of Full Cycle, arguably Cape Town’s leading worm farming expert; or as she calls herself, a “PR agent for the worms, because they really need one!” I learned Mary was coming to OZCF to install a worm farm and speak about her work.
Perfect – meet Mary and see OZCF all in one morning.
Running from the car through the raindrops, dodging puddles on Sidmouth Ave, I found shelter in OZCF’s old barn (c1790). Nice and cozy with coffee, conversations and homemade treats, I was able to mingle a bit with unique stallholders before the talk.
We circled up, everyone’s coats dripping a bit on the aged wooden floor boards as Mary’s wonderful story telling, Irish accent laden voice filled the small barn. I’m learning just how dependent on earthworms we are.
Within minutes, I appreciate worms more already (and I must admit, my mom taught me to love and protect earthworms from a young age – thanks mom!).
She narrated our obsession with plastic. A farmer picks a carrot; puts it in a container; preps it for retail; wraps it in plastic; we purchase and carry it home in a plastic bag; peel the skin off and place scraps in a garbage bag; place the garbage bag in a plastic bin; truck comes to take empty the bin; truck dumps into a landfill, lined with material (aka a really big packet). Mary nicely summed up how much we as consumers like to buy produce in nice packages, and toss both the packaging and organic waste in our waste bins. Produce scraps too often make it into sealed landfills, with nothing to assist in its decomposition and will likely look the same many years from now. You may think organic waste tossed in your garbage bin is similar to composting…let this myth now be broken!
I’m now feeling guilty for not having my own worm farm, which suddenly seems so much more productive than my compost pile alone.
I learned an impressive skill earthworms have, which I may or may not have learned years back in Botany and Zoology courses – always held at 8am for some silly reason. Earthworms can process minerals (calcium, zinc, etc.) and make them more readily available for plants to absorb. When compared to spinach grown traditionally, that which is grown with vermi-compost (soil that worms have processed) was found to have 15x more iron. Fifteen times!
. . . . Now I’m itching to make my own vermicompost for my veggie patch!
Contributor Monica Giermek runs Green Habit, an environmental consulting and eco-education company in Cape Town.