A Westgate gardener is more than reaping the rewards of clearing a plot of vacant land and transforming it into a beacon for subsistence farming – she is spreading the seeds of green living and growing the project.
Magda Campbell, founder and co-ordinator of Beacon Organic Garden and Learning Centre based at Beacon School for Learners With Special Education Needs (LSEN) in Westridge, and her team have broken ground at Hillside Primary School, in Rocklands.
Her work in the garden, over a period of almost two years, recently secured her the 2018 provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries female entrepreneur award for being the best subsistence producer in the sector.
Ms Campbell then went on to compete in the national competition, which was in East London on Thursday August 23.
The annual competition seeks to reward the efforts and contribution of women in job creation, economic growth and poverty alleviation. “I am most humbled by this experience but all grateful for the recognition and the prize money, which will go far in being reinvested in the garden, to thank the school for having faith in me and rewarding the stipend workers and volunteers,” she said.
Ms Campbell completed a level two certificate course in Plant Production at Boland College, at the Strand campus in 2014, did her practical at the Westridge school 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.
“I never would have imagined all of these blessings,” she said.
In 2016 she could only afford to pay pupil Jean Tey Heubner, from Beacon Valley, a stipend. She now employs six people on different days of the week. “This is a platform for the pupils to learn skills to take their lives forward. The community and home gardeners either buy produce, seedlings or come for advice and in turn we are able to have a share in their gardens and their lives,” she said.
The garden suffered during the drought but after a few months it yielded results and a nursery was born.
The garden uses organic farming practices and produces many different kinds of fresh vegetables and herbs.
Ms Campbell plans to expand and move into other schools, creating more awareness of agriculture to the community.
Last month she and her team sowed some seeds at Hillside Primary School, in Rocklands, which has a full-time gardener, and together with the pupils, who have learning barriers, they have already cultivated 215 squared-metres.
Ms Campbell said Beacon would only be the support, with the school owning and working its garden.
Teacher Julliete Borcherds said she was inspired by Ms Campbell’s garden and was keen to bring about a transformation in the pupils’ behaviour.
She said Mitchell’s Plain was in need of socio-economic opportunities and that gardening would also enable pupils to see their work come to life. “This is a community project, which needs the help from the community, as pupils bring recyclable goods from home, and then take what they’ve learned and gained from the garden,” she said.
In the garden the pupils can feel a sense of acceptance and self- worth in knowing that they had contributed to putting food on the table, she added.
Principal Bernard Meyer said they hope that the garden project will help instil a sense of pride in the pupils.