The Shongweni Farmers' and Craft Market started out exclusively as a farmers’ market to give the green-fingered folk of the Midlands somewhere to retail their lovingly grown and reared produce.
For most of the stall holders at the Shongweni farmers' market, organic isn’t a buzzword, but a way of life. Their commitment to their products, the environment, and their pride in the provenance of their wares means there are few better or more convivial places to shop for hormone-free meat and free-range chicken; farm-fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, cream, milk, butter, olive oils, and home-made pickles, conserves, bread and cakes.
The farmers' market in the Midlands is especially good for cooks searching for unusual and seasonal treasures. Discoveries can include guinea fowl or rabbit for a cassoulet or fresh duck eggs, forest-picked porcini, beetroot-infused cheddar cheese, or whiskey marmalade.
Moreover, there’s a genuine desire to convert visitors to a healthier way of living and eating. Vendors are chatty and generous with their tasting samples, recipes, and advice. Some, like Home Organic, aim to change the world one organic veggie garden at a time. They’ll sell you all the kit and seeds you need and ply you with free advice.
The Shongweni Farmers' and Craft Market is renowned for its hearty, healthy breakfasts. The trick is to arrive just after the market’s opened; shop a little, and then break for the Full Monty: free-range eggs, wood-smoked bacon - the works! The kids can be safely left to tear around the large lawns, visit the farm yard animals, or befriend the countless pooches patiently waiting for a morsel of sausage to ‘fall’ off a plate.
Crafts include handcrafted wooden furniture, jewellery, clothes, hats, bags, paintings and water colours by local artists and ornamental metal and stone sculptures from Zimbabwe.
By now, the hour ought to be respectable enough for you to visit the Robson’s stall. Sherene and Stuart Robson make a range of handcrafted beers at their brewery in the Valley of a Thousand Hills. The pair is passionate about pairing beer with food, and they take great pleasure in recommending which smoked meats or cheeses sold at the market complement their five premium ales, or their exotic fruit beers.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Shongweni Farmers' and Craft Market
Cnr Alvestone and Kassier roads, Shongweni, Kwa-Zulu Natal
Tel: +27 (0)31 777 1554
Mobile: +27 (0)83 777 1674
How to get here
From Durban, travel east on Dr Pixley Kaseme Street to Samora Machel Street. Turn first left into Samora Machel Street; after 120m, turn first left into Monty Naicker Road. Continue on to the N3 highway. After +/- 28km, take exit 32 towards Hillcrest/Assagay/Shongweni. Turn tight into Kassier Road and follow the signs to the market grounds.
Best time to visit
Early on a Saturday morning. The market is open from 6am to 10.30am. The market organisers have a large marquee to cater for rainy days.
Around the area
Nearby, visit the Shongweni Dam for water sports and picnicking. The Shongweni Resources Reserve has inspiring scenery, game viewing, hiking and horse riding and fishing. Also visit the gallery of porcelain and stoneware artist Andrew Walford, and the Shongweni Brewery.
Tours to do
The Shongweni Brewery runs a tour with tasting on a Saturday at 2pm. Booking is essential. Foodies should visit the Marianhill Monastery, for tea, and to learn about the organic dairy and fresh salads produced here.
Hire a car to visit the market.
What will it cost
Entrance to the market is free.
What to pack
The market operates on a cash only basis. Bring your own shopping bags, cooler boxes or pull-along shopping trolley.
Where to stay
Kangelani Lodge is an upmarket, tranquil African-Style lodge in Assagay.
Stone-ground flour from the Marianhill Monastery and Robson’s craft beers.