When Britton-Masekela started growing her own organic vegetables on a family plot in Midrand, Johannesburg, it was simply a way of providing her family and community with good, wholesome food – but she knew it could be much more.
Currently a commercial sales editor, creating innovative digital content, she’s deeply concerned about land and what we do with it. “Two years ago, while finishing a business management course at the Gordon Institute of Business Science [Gibs], I was challenged by my lecturer, Dr Thabo Mosala, to do something with what we had at our disposal. The wheels began to turn and I was determined to do something with the land on which I was raised,” she recalls.
However, she surprised both herself and her parents when she decided to start farming. The land where her father herded livestock and grew produce was purely for subsistence. She persuaded them to give her a small space where she started what’s now Kula Organic – a venture producing homegrown, natural food. She found a mentor in permaculturist and urban gardener Amon Maluleke, who taught her all he knew about growing food without the use of chemicals.
“I became enlightened about the process of agriculture and the substances used in a lot of the food we eat. I wanted people in my family and community to eat well and healthily,” she recalls.
Britton-Masekela’s initial vision for the farm may have been altruistic, but farming is an expensive occupation. She’s currently not making a profit, but derives great satisfaction from offering fresh, organic produce from farm to table.
She keeps her overheads low, employing a farmer to maintain the property and hiring additional staff for planting season. She offers a delivery service for her produce and when she’s not at work, she undertakes this herself. Her affordable vegetable packages, which start at R100 each, are earning her a growing client base.
“I’m a one-woman show at the moment, but my family pitches in and helps. Still, this isn’t a sustainable business method. I’m constantly seeking innovative ways to streamline my business,” she says.
The next step for Kula Organic is harnessing digital technology. Britton-Masekela’s passionate about the digital landscape and how agriculture can benefit from it. Her website will bring her online orders and she’s looking for efficient ways to make deliveries. “I’m learning ways in which technology and innovation can make a difference,” she says.
She’s also hoping that the youth become more interested in farming. “People generally look at just one side of the value chain – the actual planting – and don’t realise that there’s more to it than production. There’s marketing and sales, as well as constant new trends. People need to realise that they can use small spaces in their homes to grow their own produce. There are ways of growing plants like micro-greens using aquaponics and hydroponics which are more economical, because they yield more in smaller spaces, for produce like micro-greens,” she says.
While she’s not on the same scale as major retailers selling organic food, Britton-Masekela’s winning with her personal connection and consideration of the environment.