Business Owner and Founder of Greenheart Organics
Pty Ltd and Organic Farmer, Member of PGSSA /
Donna Barnard has over a decade of business experience, which was gained through the start-up and running of Console Care, a home-based nursing agency. Currently, Donna has found herself in an entirely different arena with a growing passion for organic food and farming.
In 2017, Donna embarked on an entrepreneurial journey and centred Greenheart Organics, which is a one stop organic food store, around a vision that started with the simple purpose of sourcing chemical and pesticide free food for her children, family, friends, and community. Fundamental to Greenheart Organics is sustainable living and food sovereignty, which is an ethos set in stone.
She explains, “I have always believed that health is one’s greatest wealth and so the business has evolved around a natural journey to wellness. I went in search of organic food for my own personal preference and for my family’s wellbeing. The more I searched and the more I researched, the more I realised just how difficult it was to find bona fide organic and additive free food, and so for me the business was born out of necessity really.”
A new role as a farmer
The demand for organic food has grown steadily bringing Donna varied challenges from packing orders until the early hours of the morning, to building an ecommerce website. More recently, she has been arriving home covered in black jacks, boots caked in dirt, while attempting a new role as a farmer.
One of Donna’s biggest challenges has been to source and maintain a consistent supply of organic produce. In addition, small scale farmers face many issues and despite their best efforts, yields are often low. In an effort to overcome supply challenges, Donna has recently taken on a small-scale farmstead. She adds, “I would now say that farming has become the greatest challenge of all, with worms at top of the list! I don’t think farming is something I was born to do, but it has been an incredibly fun learning experience and I can honestly say that I love what I do. At the end of the day, the challenges are so worth it when I know exactly where my food has come from, and I can say, I grew that!”
Supporting local, reducing waste, and activating for change
Greenheart Organics’ grass roots ethos is to support local, to reduce waste, and to gain momentum in the organic and wholefood movement. Currently, the company is enjoying much growth and has tripled their customer following over the last year. The present focus is on expanding their plant-based range of products and increasing their network of small-scale producers.
“We source ethical products and suppliers with clean ingredients. No nasties are allowed, which means no GMOs (genetically modified organisms), no pesticides, no routine antibiotics or hormones, colourants, or artificial additives are allowed. Our strict criteria ensures that our suppliers source quality, raw ingredients and engage in sustainable practices. Farmers must also engage in ethical and humane treatment of animals.”
In order to reduce waste, Greenheart Organics has introduced a deposit and re-use rebate system as well as certified compostable packaging for all of their fresh produce. This means that customers are rewarded when they return their empty, used, plastic waste to Greenheart Organics, which then gets refilled, reused, or recycled. For example, remember the milk bottle exchange system from way back then, well its back and its better! Fresh farm milk gets delivered in glass bottles, which just tastes better for a start. Customers then return their empty glass bottles from the previous week, and they receive a rebate for the return. Customers may also return boxes, crates and any empty plastic container bought from the Greenheart Organics’ store for a rebate on their account.
“So,” says Donna, “We actually pay customers to return their waste to us! Customers are actively participating in this waste reduction drive, which has been a huge success. This is the first waste free initiative of its kind in KZN, which is very exciting for us!” “We also advocate organic and sustainable living by being active members of a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) South Africa, which inspires local supply chains and organic growing methods. Greenheart Organics is the first PGS group in KZN to introduce an organic assurance system into the KZN marketplace. The group is basically a network of organic farmers who monitor and mentor each other and this has really helped to overcome many farming and supply challenges. The group audits farms on a biannual basis to ensure that organic standards are being met and are well maintained. In addition, they aim to ensure for social justice in that fair labour practice and fair pricing are audit criterias.
On a personal level, Donna has recently become a Greenpeace activist and aims to campaign against the growing food sovereignty crisis. She explains, “We all have the right to choose what food to eat, where it comes from and how it is grown. We are at a pivotal point in our fight against climate change and conscious consumerism is key. We all need to play our part in making positive social, environmental and economic changes by supporting local and ethical producers and engaging in sustainable living practices.”
Follow your passion
Donna’s motivation to pursue her vision has been provided by her family. “I wanted my children to grow up understanding the importance of clean nutrition and biodiversity conservation. My husband has always been my rock. He patiently picks up the pieces every time the going gets tough and reminds me to count my blessings and persevere.”
In reflecting on the advice that she would give to young women with a vision, Donna said, “Follow your passion and do what you love. Inevitably the rest will follow.”