Tracy Lee Stark
The township of Soweto, south of Johannesburg, may not be the first place to comes to mind when one thinks of farming, but that is exactly where Ashleigh Machete, a third-generation farmer, calls home.
Going by the name Joburg Ash, urban farming has been Machete’s focus for the past eight years.
Machete is a former accounting sciences student from the University of the Witwatersrand, and what started as an ardent love of growing his own food, has now become a sustainable career.
Numbers gave way to plants, and his love for farming led him to establish Jozi Food Farmer, an edible- and ornamental plant installation company, and JFF Rooftop Farm, a plant shop located under the famous Nelson Mandela mural at the 70 Juta Street Precinct in Braamfontein.
When Machete co-founded JFF Rooftop Farm, he became a regular fresh produce supplier to two popular restaurants in the area.
Ashleigh Machete, known as Joburg Ash, poses for a picture at his rooftop garden in Braamfontien, 19 May 2020. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark
When those two restaurants closed shop in November last year, his company had to urgently change its business model in order to survive. What started as a working farm where he grew specialty herbs and vegetables earmarked for the restaurants in Braamfontein, has grown into an innovative business that supplies house plants, fresh produce and premium teas directly to his new customers.
The JFF Rooftop Farm is a green oasis within the urban maze of one of Africa’s largest cities. The quirky rooftop garden area is accessed via a ladder in a discreet city courtyard.
Machete has also taken his idea of a rooftop farm to other buildings around Johannesburg.
Spekboom is pictured at Ashleigh Machete’s rooftop garden in Braamfontien, 19 May 2020. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark
Working with housing and private companies, he has set up fourteen rooftop gardens to date for communities in Johannesburg’s inner city.
In a time where climate change, our carbon footprint and food security have become critical issues for a generation looking at a more sustainable way of living, green warriors like Joburg Ash are pioneers in in shaping a new eco-friendly reality.
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