Kenya: Out At the Organic Farmers Market

24 January 2021

In my research for this week's article, I was looking for somewhere dog-friendly in Karen, where my wife and I could enjoy a sunny Saturday afternoon. I then remembered that the Organic Farmers Market was open every Saturday at KSPCA on Langata Road.

With plenty of open space and lots of other dogs around, it seemed like the perfect place for a relaxing stroll with our eight-month-old German shepherd puppy, Riley. But things didn't quite go to plan.

Soon after we arrived, we wandered over to a small food stall in the centre of the market, where we met a friendly Palestinian chef called Michael Lama. Most of the display trays on his counter were empty as he was nearing the end of his lunch service, except for one last piece of grilled chicken.

I took my eyes off Riley for a second as I was chatting to Michael, and she leapt onto the counter and snatched the chicken. The commotion drew the attention of surrounding shoppers, as I grabbed her and naively attempted to prise open her jaw.

Determined to swallow her loot, she inadvertently clamped down hard on my thumb. I apologised to Michael and paid him for the chicken.

Fresh falafel wraps

He was very understanding as a fellow dog owner, and offered to make us fresh falafel wraps with the ingredients he had left. As he prepared them, he told us how fond he was of the market. 'We are a family here - a real community. The best thing about this place is that all the produce is organic, and it's a great way to support local farmers.'

We did notice a strong sense of community as we explored the market further, with our falafel wraps in hand. Vendors were happily chatting to their neighbours, and warmly greeting friends and regular customers.

There was a particularly jovial atmosphere around the 'Opa's Traditional Delicacies' food trailer in the far corner of the market. Here, people were sat around scattered wooden tables, drinking home-brewed beer dispensed from a cool box, and enjoying traditional German sausages.

The Organic Farmers Market has been running every Saturday from 9am to 3pm at KSPCA for quite some time now, although with an extended break soon after the coronavirus hit.

But there was no indication of the virus putting shoppers off last Saturday, as there were plenty of people milling around the stalls, or putting fruit and veg in their kikapus.

Outdoor markets

There were lots of vendors that you often find in Nairobi's seasonal outdoor markets - such as Baraka Israel with their wines and oils, and the ever-popular Brown's Cheese (which we made sure was always out of snatching distance from Riley). It didn't help that their delicious free samples were laid out at dog-height in front of their stall.

Alongside them were stalls selling everything, from woven baskets, coffees and candles, to pottery, sauces and preserves. As well as Michael's grill and Opa's food trailer, there were lots of options for breakfast or lunch, such as a stall serving crepes, and another offering salads, juices and smoothies.

At the back of the market was a large tent, where most of the fruit and veg was sold. Here, I picked up a few avocados and sweet potatoes, and had a brief chat with one of the farmers, Gerald Gatonyo Ngungi.

Gerald said the sellers beside him at the market were his family or neighbours, and that they all had shambas near Kikuyu. They have been selling their produce around Karen for almost two decades, including at The Hub and the Rusty Nail, before it closed.

So Michael was right to describe the Organic Farmers Market as a family. Although next time we go, a certain canine member of our own family may have to stay at home.

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