Community food gardens are not new to Cape Town, but a demonstration vegetable garden in the heart of the city is. Thanks to World Design Capital encouraging ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, the iconic Company’s Garden, one of Cape Town’s earliest landmarks, is transforming what has latterly been used as a car park into a heritage food garden.
The City of Cape Town has unveiled the Dutch-period Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) vegetable and herb garden in the Company’s Garden. Developed over 360 years ago, the original garden supplied produce to the ships and sailors who travelled the spice trade route from the East Indies. It is said that the original garden produced the Cape’s first wine on-site in 1659.
‘In a truly inclusive manner, the VOC vegetable garden aims to bring together the diverse communities of Cape Town to a historical and cultural shared public space. Located within easy reach of public transport, the garden is accessible to all and free training will be provided in the techniques required to create food gardens. We hope that community members who receive this training will go on to start their own food gardens, or motivate their communities to develop such gardens in their immediate public open spaces.
‘The garden project is a free, public resource that will offer on-site advice from gardeners. Inclusivity not only applies to individuals, but also to businesses that may wish to establish roof gardens or vertical gardens. The core message of the VOC vegetable garden is to promote greening initiatives in various forms,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Special Projects, Alderman Belinda Walker.
The VOC vegetable garden will showcase the historical origins of the Company’s Garden as a food source. It will be a working vegetable and herb garden which will include historical herb varieties, fruit trees and vegetables, a demonstration food garden, an edible indigenous plant garden and an indigenous medicinal herb garden.
‘It will be an important means of educating visitors about urban agriculture, as well as the medicinal properties of herbs and vegetables. This innovative World Design Capital project will highlight the need for urban food gardens, and promote the development of community gardens in undeveloped public open spaces around the city,’ added Alderman Walker.
The City is committed to providing safe and secure open spaces for communities to enjoy. The Company’s Garden in the Cape Town CBD has become a gathering point for thousands of Capetonians and visitors in the last few years, and has hosted a number of events.
‘As part of our efforts to build an inclusive city, we want to encourage the exchange of ideas and culture in these public spaces, as well as provide a space for local entrepreneurs. The Company’s Garden is leading the way and has hosted many events over the past year including the immensely successful Summer Market, as well as story-telling sessions, music performances and outdoor exercise programmes, such as aerobics,’ said Alderman Walker.