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Organic farming a whole lifestyle

To eat only what they could harvest from their farm was the challenge Tabby Robertshaw and Alex Chouler of Graze Slow Café in Stanford had set for themselves.

The couple moved to Stanford 11 years ago with the vision of living the country life and being self-sufficient.

Tabby says their goals were to have a smallholding with a variety of animals, fruit and veggies, be self-sufficient, and maybe have a farm stall or market stall to sell their excess produce.

“Soon it turned into three different businesses,” she pointed out, “which turned into a full week’s work and resulting in little time to realise our dream of being self-sufficient.”

About a year ago, Tabby started to wonder if she and Alex could “live off the land”, and harvest and eat only what was from the farm. “I then proposed this idea to my partner as a month-long challenge that had begun in May 2019. This meant no snacks, coffee, alcohol, chocolates, nothing bought from shops. I named it the Good Luck Farm Feast.

Tabby admits it was challenging at first. “One could think what an excruciating vice coffee was to give up, not to mention dairy (we don’t have any cows…yet) and, on top of that, none of the comfort foods, such as bread, rice and tea.

“In the month of May things were quite scarce on the farm too; we didn’t predict the chickens would stop laying, so as soon as one of us heard a squawking chicken, the tell-tale sign of a freshly laid egg, it would be a mad scramble to see who could get to it first.”

They ate their way through one whole pig, two rabbits, one duck and some goats. They also ate lots of leafy greens and cabbages, tree tomatoes and sweet potatoes. “I really missed my cup of tea first thing in the morning, and mint tea just didn’t do it for me.”

The couple has since tackled two more challenges at different times of the year. She says: “A benefit is that we reduce our carbon footprint of everyday consumables, and not worry about food packaging wastage piling up in our recycle bins.”

According to Tabby, growing one’s own food, especially organically, has many challenges. “Predators are a problem, as we try to keep all our animals as free-range as possible, we recently lost our Boerbok Billy Goat to the leopard, and often birds of pray will take the small chicks.”

She explains they use no chemical fertiliser or pesticides, and this means they have to put in extra work, such as ensuring the compost heaps are turned and all animal manure is properly composted to use as fertiliser for the veggies. Their chickens, ducks and turkeys help with pest control, eating snails and insects.

Tabby says living this way has benefited her health and made her aware of how fortunate they are to be able to produce everything they need to survive.

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