Mooikelder Farm is a 22ha farm on the northern outskirts of Paarl and home to De Fynne Nursery. The farm belongs to the Department of Rural Development and business partners Jacky Goliath and Elton Jefthas have been renting the farm since 2013. Mooikelder also had 10ha of rather neglected plum orchards and when they took over the farm and moved the nursery to the property, they also started farming the plum orchards. De Fynne nursery propagates and sells containerised fynbos plants and deciduous fruit trees and Jacky and De Fynne have won several prestigious farming awards in recent years.
“Our involvement with the Jobs Fund was initiated through the Deciduous Fruit Development Chamber who saw an opportunity for our industry through the Jobs Fund,” explained Elton Jefthas. “This application was successful and 23 farms who were well positioned to become commercial agricultural units were identified to be part of this initiative. This included De Fynne and the process is being implemented through Hortgro.
“When we started the process our needs were to expand our plum orchards as we have old varieties and many of our orchards had been neglected,” says Jacky. “We wanted to replace old orchards as well as to expand new orchards onto previously cultivated ground. We also wanted to expand the size of our nursery in order to do plant production for the deciduous industry as there is a big need for this in our industry.”
During the past two years climatic conditions have been incredibly harsh and their orchards have suffered damage due to heatwaves, wind and hail. To compound matters the water supply the farm receives from the Berg River is no longer available as the Berg River has dried up this year.
“We have postponed the implementation of some of the Jobs Fund allocations to De Fynne,” says Elton. “We decided to hold back on planting the new plum orchards as allocated to us by the fund until we had done proper research and such as soil analysis and irrigation mapping. We have now completed this and to date the Jobs Fund has assisted us to achieve this as well as to implement drainage of the soil where we plan to plant the orchards. In light of the water shortage and climatic conditions this could be seen as a blessing in disguise as we are re-evaluating if it is indeed wise to expand our orchards at present.
“We currently already produce plant material for the fruit farming industry including fig and blueberry seedlings. As there is a need for additional plant material suppliers in the industry, we are considering putting a plan forward to rather focus on expanding our nursery further at this stage, for the making of plum and other deciduous tree crops. We would like to plant our seedlings in containers and sell them to producers in containers to produce an improved product for our clients. Currently many nurseries sell young fruit trees with exposed roots and by establishing the young trees in a soil medium in a container, this will promote better establishment of these seedlings when they are planted out into the orchard. It is likely that this will become a trend in the near future and we would like to be one of the first nurseries to enter this field. We also need additional inputs such as irrigation for the nursery.
“In 2017 the Jobs Fund has assisted us with expand our shade net area by 2 000m2 and to expand our area under tunnels by 2500m2. We also received a soil mixing machine to increase our ability to mix soils in the nursery and a fertigation machine for the nursery. At the same time they also assisted us with the soil drainage and preparation for the proposed plum orchards. During 2018 we also received a tipping wagon for soil. We hope to establish mother block orchards of 1 to 2 hectares to start producing more deciduous trees. We would also like to establish partnerships with intellectual property companies to produce trees for their growers.
“The farm and nursery currently employs 23 permanent workers and 17 temporary workers. The expansions that have been made possible by the Jobs fund have already created additional jobs. With our new proposed nursery expansion we could potentially create 100 000 trees over the next two to three years and this is likely to create more jobs than the original plan to plant plum orchards.
“While we are very grateful to the Jobs fund for their assistance, the accelerated business growth inherent in the Jobs Fund plan has the potential to cause businesses like ours and other Jobs Fund recipients to fail. The fund provides the bulk of the financial input (approximately 85%) through providing services and infrastructure but the business still has to fund the additional 15% for labour costs. This expenditure was most likely not in the original budgets for cash flow and without the running capital, businesses can very easily use up their reserves and run into financial difficulties. For some of the emerging farmers who do not own their farms this is a problem as financial institutions are not willing to assist farmers without title deeds as collateral.”
Elton and Jacky have established a thriving nursery with an established clientele and have created jobs in the area despite considerable establishment challenges. The Jobs Fund contributions to their business have the potential to grow and secure De Fynne for future successes.