“Your tomatoes are fantastic”, a customer at the local Reko market tells Kim Wiggett.
Kim already knows this because her dogs, Rusty and Freddie, love snacking on her tomatoes.
After years of listening to podcasts, to relieve the tedium of her hour-long commute to and from a crazy corporate job, Kim decided to change her life and grow some good tomatoes.
“My favourite podcast was Sustainable World with Jill Cloutier. All the conversations about food forests, beneficial insects, urban homesteading and healing herbs really inspired me. I started to think that life shouldn’t be about driving to a stressful job every day to make money.”
Kim’s mother and grandmother were keen gardeners (her mom still is), and she spent happy holidays on farms owned by her family. “Some of my fondest memories involve gumboots, mud and shearing sheep. My gran grew the tastiest pumpkin I have ever eaten.” So it comes as no surprise that spending time in her small city garden was Kim’s way to relax and connect with seasonal rhythms.
One day, a Property24 advert popped up on her newsfeed and she fell in love with the beautiful photos of a country dwelling, with chickens running around. “I said to my husband Duncan, imagine living there?” A few weeks later they drove up from Durban to attend a wedding in the area and decided to take a detour past the property (the magic of GPS!). “We stopped outside, intending to move along, but the owners waved, we waved back, and soon we were invited inside to look around.”
They bought the property and changed their lives. Now they had a blank canvas with lots of space to grow beautiful chemical-free food, and, more importantly, a purposeful mission to improve biodiversity and regenerate the soil. “We are not trying to just do less bad, we are really trying to improve what’s already here,” Kim says earnestly. In 2017 she began by building two raised beds, thinking she would just grow food for themselves and be food secure in their little off-grid home built of reclaimed materials.
Naturally, as veggies are prone to do, soon there was a glut and she need to sell some. “The first week, I made R36!” she grins. Over the years, her garden has expanded and now includes apple and plum trees, mushroom logs, great compost heaps, sunflowers that reach for the sky, enormous artichokes and pretty bean poles made from pruned branches. And heirloom tomatoes.
City living often means you barely see your neighbours, let alone know them. Within six months Kim had met more people in Nottingham Road than she ever had in Durban. Particularly gratifying, was meeting like-minded people who knew what she was talking about when she mentioned her heroes Ridgedale Farm or Curtis Stone, in conversation. She admits that she is constantly learning – both about regenerative agriculture and ways to make a living from growing food.
A few years ago, Kim and Duncan (both keen trail runners) had become vegetarian, after reading a story in their favourite magazine and watching a video which discussed the ‘cognitive dissonance’ associated with meat eating. “It was pretty easy to change our diets as we both love cooking and didn’t need to rely on the processed veggie alternatives for long.” Kim set out to create some fast food options that were healthy – like her Smokey Black Bean Burgers. With positive feedback from tasters, she launched Happy Heart Foods – naturally plant based products that incorporate all their ideals: organically grown herbs and vegetables, local ingredients, biodegradable packaging. Wraps and burgers are big sellers, even to regular meat eaters. Kim explains the name: “It makes my heart happy to do this work, it is good for your heart to eat this way and it is good for the planet.”
Kim is a big fan of the Reko concept, an effective way of connecting producers and consumers, reducing food miles and instilling complete transparency. She participates in all three Reko Rings – Hilton, Notties and Howick and has a regular stall at the Earth Route Market in Nottingham Road on Saturday mornings. Kim is spokesperson for the local Slow Food Community of Regenerative Producers who strive to continually improving their own practices and inspire, educate and support fellow producers to adopt regenerative, ethical production and farming practices.
“I am supposed to have Sundays off, but I can’t resist pottering around. This really doesn’t feel like work, when I am in the garden the time just flies.” Now to harvest those plump tomatoes and put them away before the cat discovers how delicious they are!