In South Africa, the movement to support local, small-scale growers and farmers is on the rise as citizen-consumers have become more aware of the effects of large-scale commercial farming on their health and the environment.
Supporting local food systems is more climate, health, and human-conscious as shorter supply chains mean nutrients, freshness, and taste are not lost through early harvesting, long delivery hauls, or storage. Shorter supply chains also make traceability possible and the reduction of food waste and packaging easier as small-scale farmers don’t have to bulk supply.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of seven local, seasonal, fresh produce subscription box services dotted around South Africa. For most of the fresh produce services, seasonality plays a big role in the selection of fruits and vegetables on offer. In an interview with SnapScan, founder of OddBox, Simon Whitelaw explains: “Produce that’s in season isn’t just more readily available, it’s better quality and more sustainable. More seasonal produce means less effort is required to grow, which means a smaller carbon footprint. It’s the way nature intended us to eat”. The services are organised in areas of delivery.
The widely visited Cape Dutch-style working farm situated off the R44 in the Cape, Babylonstoren offers six fresh vegetable box options (seasonal fruit boxes ordered separately).
Produced in, and sourced from neighbouring farms in the Drakenstein Valley, the Seasonal Harvest Box for Two for R120 can include baby potatoes, red and white onions, lemon, brassicas, carrots, two seasonal vegetables, and a herb bunch. Choose the larger Seasonal Harvest Box for R250. For basic pantry veggies, choose the 3kg Staple Box – Medium for R65 or the 5kg Staple Box – Large for R95 each containing potatoes, onions, chilli, and herbs.
For Japanese-inspired cooking browse their Mushroom Teriyaki Pack for R175 which includes a selection of mushrooms, ginger, garlic, pakchoi, leeks, lemons, chilli, and herbs, …or their Seasonal Roast Pack harvested from Babylonstoren and surrounding farms for R155 which includes butternut, brinjals, beets, carrots, and cabbage.
The Seasonal Fruit Box for R175 contains 4kg of a minimum of five different fruits (season-dependent) including plums, apples, pears, and grapes that are harvested from the Babylonstoren farm as well as other fruit growers in the region.
Babylonstoren offers free delivery nationwide. Order before 14:00 for next-day delivery.
Virgin City Fields (Johannesburg)
With the idea to “bring the farm to you” using sustainable farming methods that benefit everyone’s health and the environment the Johannesburg-based family-owned business, Virgin City Fields, was founded. Working with local farmers and small businesses, Virgin City Fields is provides a comprehensive selection of wholefoods and fresh produce from organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables, to preservative and stabiliser-free dairy products, banting bread, and grass-fed meats.
You can browse over 70 fresh fruit and vegetable items on the Virgin City Fields website to build your own fresh produce box. Virgin City Fields has a minimum order of R550. Orders close on Tuesdays at midnight and delivery takes place every Friday between 08:00 and 17:00 in Johannesburg (East, West, South, North) as well as in Midrand and Centurion.
OddBox (Cape Town)
Founded amid lockdown in 2020 by chef and entrepreneur Simon Whitelaw to create high-quality food from accessible, affordable, high-quality produce, OddBox is a Cape Town-based fruit and vegetable delivery service that supports local farmers, communities, and businesses.
OddBox sources fresh produce directly from local organic micro-farmers from the Cape Flats and offers two fresh produce box options: the Mostly Veg and the Balanced Mix. Both options come in either “The Double” for R130 which feeds one to two people for a week, or “The Family” for R215 which feeds four people per week. Alternatively, if you prefer a more tailored choice you can select the “Build Your Own” option with a R199 order minimum.
OddBox uses minimal to no plastic packaging. Instead, quite contrary to the business’s name, OddBox packages their fresh produce in brown paper bags with handles as Simon says (noting the irony) “…but ‘OddBag’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!”
OddBox strives for same-day procurement and delivery so that nothing has a chance to use energy sitting in cold storage, droop or lose flavour. OddBox updates their fresh produce boxes weekly on their website and Instagram page. OddBox does not offer onsite collection as of yet.
InSeason Mobile Market (Cape Town)
InSeason Mobile Market is a collaborative mobile grocery store that delivers fresh, seasonal produce and products – grown by and sourced locally from small-scale farmers in the Philip Horticulture area and Khayelitsha – to the Southern Suburbs and the City Bowl of Cape Town.
InSeason Mobile Market offers five fresh produce box options depending on your individual needs and contains a selection of farm-fresh produce available in-season. The contents of these boxes are subject to weekly change and are plastic-free:
- On the Go Easy box: R200 – with the addition of eggs, cheese, and fresh milk
- Singles box: R260
- Surprise box: R600 – with the addition of artisanal produce like olives, olive oil, bread, cheese and/or milk alternatives
- Plant-based box (Medium): R300
- Plant-based box (Large): R400
Or, make up your own box for the same price!
InSeason Mobile Market has a physical store space located in Newlands at the Montebello Design Centre should you wish to pick up your fresh produce box on your way home from work. Open from 09:30 to 16:00 Tuesday to Sunday.
Deliveries are open from Tuesday to Saturday Every order is delivered fresh to the desired destination within their delivery routes (see bottom of the webpage).
FreshBox is based in KwaZulu-Natal. The nonprofit organisation was founded in 2016 by Benjamin Constable with the aim to tackle malnourishment and food insecurity amongst children
Once you land on their subscription page start creating your base FreshBox. Choose from four size options including 3kg (small), 5kg (medium), 7kg (Family), and 9kg (super family). Then add your preferred collection point where your FreshBox will be delivered each week, and select the beneficiary you would like to support. For every 3kgs you receive FreshBox buys an extra kilogram of fresh fruit and donates it to your chosen beneficiary. The list of beneficiaries FreshBox has partnered with focuses on feeding children in Durban who are most at risk of malnutrition.
FreshBox also offers add-ons including extra fruit and veg, fresh, free-range farm eggs, milk, and bread for an additional fee. Each allows you to choose your preferred ratio of fruit and veg as well as your individual produce preferences – with over 40 choices you can tell the FreshBox system which fruits and veg you love, like and dislike.
Return your empty box when you collect your new FreshBox at the collection point of your choice on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at the following times:
- Tuesdays (Glenwood, Morningside, Durban North): 11:00am – collection point closing time,
- Wednesdays (Glen Ashley, La Lucia, Umhlanga): 11:00am – collection point closing time,
- Thursdays (Hillcrest, Kloof, Westville): 11:00am – collection point closing time.
FreshBoxes are priced from R389 per month with a R250 once-off box deposit.
The Pantry Box (Kloof)
Started by Debbie Van Heerden in 2019 to help small, local entrepreneurs connect with the consumer, The Pantry Box delivers locally produced food products to the Upper Highway Area including Kloof, Hillcrest, Assagay, Shongweni, Waterfall, Forest Hills, and surrounding areas.
The majority of The Pantry Box’s fruit and vegetables are sourced from local growers and farmers. Debbie’s husband works with communities in The Valley of 1000 Hills in conscious farming practices that use free and readily available natural resources to avoid the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers. “Our dream is that the community can produce enough crops and I can sell enough vegetables to sustain them so that many of the unemployed in the Valley (Tshelimnyama) will have a sustainable way to support themselves,” says Debbie.
Browse over 50 fresh fruit and vegetable items on The Pantry Box website to build your own fresh produce box.
The Pantry Box offers free delivery on orders over R900. Orders are placed and delivered within three working days from the day your order is placed.
Organic Footprints (Gqeberha)
Organic Footprints is an organic, free-range and natural food, household, and personal care product delivery service based in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) with a mission to supply slow food in a fast-paced environment and ultimately, restore the balance between ecology and economy.
To cut out all the unnecessary (and often wasteful) ‘fluff’, Organic Footprints works on a farm-to-table model. This means that fresh produce is harvested to order which reduces waste and cuts down on storage time.
Organic Footprints have taken care to support and partner with local growers and artisans who hand make, rear, or grow their produce free-range, organically, naturally, ethically, and sustainably. The growing conditions (conventionally farmed; homegrown ethically and sustainably etc) are detailed under each food item and if you are unsure of any terminology, you can look it up under their detailed TERMINOLOGY tab. You can read about each grower, farmer, and artisan that supplies Organic Footprints under the “Meet The Farmers” tab on their website – a great touch to be able to trace your food right back to the people behind it.
Choose from over 120 fresh produce items, free-range eggs and dairy products, free-range meat, vegan and gluten-free options to create your own combo to suit your needs, or select one of their three fresh seasonal produce combos which include:
- A mini weekly seasonal combo consisting of eight items for R150
- A weekly seasonal combo consisting of 14 items plus something for the sweet tooth for R250
- An essential veg combo consisting of four items for R60
Organic Footprints offers the option of door-to-door delivery for R35 which takes place twice a week on Tuesdays (place your order by 08:30am on Monday) and Thursdays (place your order by 8:30am on Wednesday), or you can pick up your order from an established collection point.
- Visit The Organic Footprints website here
Nourishing ourselves with in-season, organic produce from small-scale, local farmers and producers is not only an important part of reducing our environmental impact. It is also a fun, visibly impactful way to support local economies and cultivate meaningful community relationships.
“Supporting local entrepreneurs strengthens our community and our economy while the quality of products is exceptional. I am personally involved with so many of my suppliers and I know how hard they work to succeed in their businesses,” concludes Debbie from The Pantry Box.
- Please note: this is not an exhaustive list and we encourage readers to let us know of any fresh produce services supporting local, small farmers and promoting ethical and sustainable growing that we may have missed that should be on the list.
- Cover image: Photo by Vanessa Loring from Pexels
- Images supplied