Growing a better future for Westridge

Pictured are pupils from the Beacon School for LSEN, Brandon Chrystie, from Highlands Village, Umar Petersen, from Portland, Tyresse Abelse, from Rocklands, Jean Tey Heubner, from Beacon Valley, Sherwin Willoughby, from Woodlands, Shamieg Gallie, from Tafelsig, and farmer Magda Campbell, from Westgate.

A Westgate resident has harvested vegetables and ploughed back into the Westridge community rows of economic growth, self-sustainability and beautified a once vacant plot of land at Beacon School for Learners with Special Educational Needs (LSEN).

Magda Campbell, a gardener and outdoor teacher, welcomed guests to the launch of the Beacon Organic Garden on Friday October 28.

She is a Boland College graduate, having completed a level two certificate course in Plant Production at the Strand campus in 2014.

Ms Campbell did her practical training at Beacon LSEN in 2014 and returned months later to clean and work 1 000 square metres of vacant land on the premises, along the school’s fence, bordering Wespoort Road, in Westridge.

“I had worked here before and I just wanted to give back to the pupils and the community,” she said.

It took her three months of hard work, including the use of tractors, help from pupils at the school and the community to clean the area before they could start planting.

Today, the once weed infested, overgrown and unused plot of land is green and thriving with flowers, fruit and vegetables.

Now she has challenged the pupils and teachers to cultivate the front section of the school, outside their classroom.

The pupils also get to spend time in the garden during their school day.

Ms Campbell employs one of the pupils, whose salary is derived from the sale of garden produce.

She is looking to employ more pupils, depending on available funds.

Guests bought freshly picked organic parsley, celery, turnips, carrots, beans, lettuce, artichokes, kale, spinach and string beans at the launch.

Pupils showed off their class gardens, which they worked in for months, competing to have the best garden.

Principal Cheryl Muller was full of praise for what Ms Campbell had done at the school.

“It is not just talk and chalk but seeing the children work in the garden, growing things and reaping the benefits of beautifying the school,” she said.

Joan Januarie, head of department for vocational skills, said her pupils, aged 18, were nearing the end of their schooling career but now they could be promoted to working in the garden.

During their last year, her pupils, some of whom are severely mentally disabled, work in the garden, cleaning and packaging the vegetables to be sold. “I watch the pupils and I see their faces glow when they work in the garden and with the vegetables,” she said.

Ms Campbell enlisted the help of NPO Soil for Life, to teach and help residents grow healthy, organic food using simple, low-cost and environmentally-friendly methods.

At the launch, Eddie Andrews, councillor for Ward 78 and mayoral committee member for tourism, events and economic development, appealed to educare centres, schools and the public to support the initiative by buying their monthly fresh produce from the garden. He thanked Ms Campbell as well as Ayanda Obose, from the Department of Agriculture, and Pat Featherstone, from Soil for Life, who helped make Ms Campbell’s vision a reality.

Ms Campbell is at the garden from Monday to Friday. For more information call or text her on 079 543 2649.