In one of the small Karoo towns we drove around looking for a place to get something to eat en route to the coast. A friendly stranger at a service station gave us directions to a small cafe where he said that the food would be good. We were not disappointed.
In fact, the hamburgers and chips were wholesome and tasty. Better than anything we could have bought from the large fast-food chains which were in any event absent from this town.
Such is the friendliness and value for money that you can find in these small Karoo heartland towns. I was fortunate enough to take a few days break to pass through the Karoo. We were en route to the farming town of Patensie near the famed surfing seaside village of Jeffreys Bay.
What amazed me most was the frugal life that exists on the Karoo farms, the hospitality and friendliness, the wide open spaces and people who are hard-working and industrious.
Before we left on our journey through the Karoo, we stayed for a few days on a farm outside Bloemfontein. On this farm I learned about the ingenuity and constant improvement that the farmer implements to get the highest yields from the land.
We went out into the groundnut fields and checked out the groundnut plants. I tasted the sweet, fresh groundnuts. Even though I had worked for a few years in a peanut butter factory, I had never tasted groundnuts picked fresh from the ground.
On this farm dinner starts early and the family goes to bed early so that they are up early and fresh for the new working day. This is something that we forget about in the big cities. It’s easy to end up reading or watching television to all sorts of hours and then feel tired the next day.
At our stay on a farm at Patensie we the crow of a cockerel woke us at 6 AM in the morning. Here we stayed at a farm in the heart of the citrus growing area. Around a hearty meal of goulash-style soup and red wine we learnt how scientific citrus fruit farming has become.
Farmers contend against pests, diseases and viruses and constantly work on quality control. They have to ensure their citrus fruit meets the exacting standards of the export markets in Europe.
Early on the Saturday morning, we got up to attend the farmer’s bazaar in Patensie. Farmers and their families organised the bazaar to raise funds for the community.
On sale was an amazing array of fruit and vegetables as well as processed meats. Several old tractors and water pumps were on display which provided much interest for the farmers in the area. They made everyone feel welcome.
The highlight was the farmers’ auction were products such as a giant pumpkin, wire toy cars, wines and large fresh produce packs. They sold for as high as possible so the community could benefit.
In our modern society where we buy our fruit and vegetables, dairy products and meat from supermarkets we have lost touch with the producers of our food. We forget the people who live and work to grow our food in the isolated country areas.
Many of us aren’t fortunate enough to experience first-hand the old-fashioned hospitality, friendliness and hard-working industry of those who grow our produce. Sometimes they do so with great difficulty and much financial risk.
We also had the opportunity to learn about the resilience of people who are the backbone of the food that nourishes us and enables us to live far away from the source of agricultural activity.