Hettie Swart: “We are very privileged to live a dream shared by numerous plantsman in the community. We have been surprised by the community’s participation and enthusiastic support.”
Many White Riverian’s have passed the scarecrow on Njanje Road on their way to one of the Estates or Uplands. That scarecrow is a topical chap – who can forget his rugby gear and the All Black companion he had for a short period – until the Boks were thumped on the sportsfield!
Chalkboard signs simply mention berries, flowers and veggies and the gates are wide open but, being polite Saffers, few venture through the portal. Oh, how you should. The understated entrance belies the enchanting ‘honesty’ fresh produce shop within.
Dentist Blackie Swart retired in 2014 and many will understand his itchy fingers at the sudden inactivity. Spotting a neglected piece of land on their doorstep, he and wife Hettie snapped it up to pursue a lifelong interest of theirs – small scale farming.
While Hettie continues her day to day involvement in the Macadamia Villages, “Farmer” Swart and his two full time farmhands spend their days pruning, picking, weeding, planting and building. Hettie says she and Blackie consider the labour to be their daily gym but it does involve getting up super early, (before sunrise) giving her time to pick and prune before her official work day begins.
The couple are surprised by the extent of the enthusiasm and interest of local folks. Economy of scale prevents partaking in formal trade so they share their produce with the surrounding community. Hettie says the ‘honesty’ principal is based on the integrity and sincere participation of the community. People come along with new and special seeds, interesting plants and share ideas. Retired farmers freely share their knowledge and experience and it really has grown into a platform of sharing.
The constantly expanding range of produce and products has seen them plant all types of fruit trees, berries, pomegranates, custard apples, grapes, prickly pears and attempt a range of different flowers. Anthyrhyums, roses, clivias and cymbidiums. They still have capacity to grow or to change the product line and encourage others to grow crops of their own and add them to the self-service shop. Hettie and Blackie have uncovered ‘plantsman’ in almost every household!
What began as a personal retirement hobby has galvanised the community to participate and support a return to good old fashioned local shopping and communal living.
The effect is spurring the Swarts on to bigger things; in the pipeline are interesting talks on various activities that support and add value to the food chain and local economy. At all times, however, fun is the order of the day.
This remarkable couple, who have lived in White River since 1975, are to be commended for their efforts and initiative in opening local eyes to the value of growing, sharing, minimising waste, recycling to the max and making each square metre count.
They’ve recently given their project a name – Plantsman, derived from the term for an enthusiastic gardener. They are busy designing a logo which will incorporate a bee, invaluable partner to the farmer and essential to food production.
Pop in and see for yourself this local treasure. This little piece of Eden in our midst can be enjoyed by all.
Contact Cell: Hettie 082 446 2738