We were late but Lello was full of love. He welcomed us to his piece of paradise near Plett with open arms and a hearty hello at the close of day. Our dusky arrival was the result of a unique and experimental approach to time management and navigation destined to be our third wheel the entire trip and lose us some stunning opportunities. The lesson here : keep one phone charged and use Maps.Me : a mobile way-finding app that works offline (and if anyone can recommend a good solar powered phone charger, please leave a comment). It reminded me why I usually do things myself and maybe that’s why Lello was not bothered by our tardiness – he does things himself, too.
He and his wife are producing and selling local, organic produce on a commercial scale in the Plettenberg Bay area. It started with a lifestyle change for health and wellness and grew into a mini-empire built on love and hands-on home industries. His homestead encompasses a large industrial kitchen, swanky coffee shop called Bocca Dolce, a huge workshop that houses carpenters and blacksmiths and a herd of happy horses. The workshops are furnishing and decorating a German castle for the next five years; the horses are boosting the garden’s soil with their um processed grass. From that comes a steady stream of seasonal fruits, nuts and vegetables that supply local shops, markets and national supermarkets. The produce is untainted by any of the –ides or sprays used in mainstream farming, and the process itself raises many an eyebrow with Farmer Incendiario’s contemporaries. This is no surprise : the purveyors of holistic farming systems like permaculture and biodynamic farming get a lot of flak from industrialists for the perceived impracticality of their practises. Big farms have big fields; they need big yields. In an age of (increasingly expensive) metal and oil, it makes little sense to the monocultural mindset to fiddle around with manual labour and manure when a machine or chemicals could do it more quickly, swiftly and cheaply. What Lello is doing is demonstrating that ‘impracticality’ is a point of view. “I live in an area where every guy around me thinks I’m insane. I had somebody here who said, ‘but look, you’ve got four guys cleaning this garden – how MUCH do you pay them each?” and I said, ‘Ja, so that’s an expensive WAY of gardening, but it’s so sustainable because you’re not looking at the cost of the tractors and you’re not looking at the cost of the wheels and you’re not looking at the cost of the diesel.”
He’s not claiming to practise pure permaculture, but points out “we plant with the moon, we obviously follow some very strict eco practises.” Permaculture is nature intensified; its principles and logic follow nature’s own, and Lello does too, so you could say he’s quietly championing the cause of clean living . Except the man is not quiet! He sings as he walks, talks animatedly with his hands as much as with his voice, and his dialogue includes as many accents as you can challenge him to and a few more of his own making. To borrow a favourite word of our facilitators, Lello is a love bomb. He oozes optimism and ignites the air around him with abundance. It’s great to see positivity personified and responsible farming making a name for itself in the Living Foods brand (THEY EVEN MAKE FROZEN, GLUTEN-FREE WRAPS which are hard to find which is why I’m shouting). His infectious sense of humour left all of us in high spirits as we got back on the road to meet other wild spirits.
(looking for the previous post?)