Over the past decade Derich Priga and his wife Marlaine have overcome many challenges to develop D+M Fresh fruit packing and trading business at Klipfontein in a pack house that they rent from fellow shareholders of the Klipfontein Agricultural Trust. With the assistance from the Jobs Fund project and a partnership with the Stargrow Group, Derich and his fellow shareholders have recently been able to establish 20ha of young apple and pear orchards at Klipfontein.
Klipfontein Farm is a 101ha farm with water rights for 40ha and overlooks the Theewaterskloof Dam at Vyeboom. The farm was bought by the Klipfontein Agricultural Trust in 1996 when a group of 40 farm workers from the Villiersdorp/Vyeboom area bought the property with LRAD funding from the Department of Land Affairs and the transfer was finally completed in 2002.
The farm was undeveloped and had no infrastructure. The beneficiaries were all employed on farms in the district and as they had no access to production capital, they were unable to develop the farm. A few of the trustees kept some cattle on the property. In 2007 the government had bought a shed, transported it to Klipfontein and erected it on the farm but it was not used for anything. In 2009 the trustees received two 20x10m tunnels from the Department of Agriculture and although some of the trustees tried to farm with tomatoes in the tunnels, without access to start-up capital, this was also not successful.
Derich Priga is one of the trustees of the Klipfontein Agricultural Trust as well as the chairman of the trust. He had tried to do some farming at Klipfontein during this time despite the lack of resources. “The farm gates were locked and there was no significant farming activity happening here. In 2010 I received a phone call from the Department of Agriculture to say that we were in danger of losing the farm if we did not actively farm the property,” explains Derich. “I told our fellow trustees about this and none of them wanted to risk giving up their employment. As I had always been keen to start my own business I made them an offer to rent the shed from the trust in order to start a fruit packing and trading business. They agreed and that was the start of D&M Fresh Products.”
This represented a huge risk for the Priga family as Derich resigned from his job as Group Pack House Manager at one of the Fruitways pack houses in 2010 in order to move to Klipfontein and start this business. The initials in D&M Fresh Products stand for Derich and Marlaine and this husband and wife team built this fruit packing and trading business together. “I bought a second-hand fruit packing line for the shed and we were slowly able to grow our business. We also received a great deal of help from Charles Willemse, who is one of the other trustees,” says Derich.
The Trust’s fortunes started to change during the last two years when they established a strategic partnership with the Stargrow Group and were subsequently approved as recipients of Jobs Fund funding.
“We only have land and water and have never had access to the necessary funding to plant orchards and without our partnership with the Stargrow Group we would not have been able to do this,” says Derich. “I am the chairman of the Klipfontein Agricultural Trust and negotiated with the Stargrow Group. We put the proposal to the trust and they agreed to the partnership. In partnership with the Stargrow Group we planted our very first orchards in 2017 and these were provided by the Jobs Fund.
“We heard about the Jobs Fund in 2016 through Hortgro. This was exciting but we did not expect much as all previous opportunities had failed. Previously we did not have the resources to organise new developments but our newly formed partnership made it possible for us to access this extremely exciting funding opportunity from the Jobs Fund. The Klipfontein Agricultural Trust now has a formal 20-year partnership with the Stargrow Group. The trust has a 51% share and the Stargrow Group has a 49% share.
“We provided the labour for the soil preparation and also did the soil analysis and ground preparation. The Stargrow Group provided the top up funding to ensure that we were able to plant the best quality trees and acquire the best quality implements. We have received funding for a tractor and a chemical spray cart from the Jobs Fund and the Stargrow Group assisted us to buy the ideal tractor and chemical spray cart for our needs. The Stargrow Group provided the trees for our orchards as part of their contribution to the business and we also receive production capital from the Stargrow Group. We have also been able to appoint a farm manager to assist us with production.
“The agreement with the Stargrow Group is that all the farm’s fruit will be packed here in our packhouse which is a 100% BEE accredited pack house. Stargrow Fruit Marketing will market our fruit and export our export quality fruit. Our pack house has SAGAP accreditation and this year we have exported to the Far East. Going forward we expect our volumes to increase with the Stargrow Group and we also pack fruit for another producer.
“We planted 20ha of trees which include Celina Pears, Decarli Gala apples, Rosy Glow Apples and Aztec Fuji apples. We hope to be able to plant a further 20ha this year.
“A few years ago The Stargrow Group took a decision to play an active role in transformation of agriculture in South Africa by assisting Black growers to integrate into the value chain in terms of fruit farming,” says Michiel Prins, Managing Director of the Stargrow Group “We do this by obtaining financing for the growers, assisting with skills transfer and opening markets for the growers, amongst other things. The Klipfontein project is developing very successfully due to Derich and his team’s commitment, passion and dedication. We are building a strong partnership together.”
“Our family has been through the toughest of times since we started here but we have grown through adversity and are excited about the future. Marlaine has been a Department Head at the local school for many years and our son Marlon (30) runs the pack house. Our other son Carlich is currently studying marketing at CPUT and he plans to join the business to assist us with marketing. We have a very good relationship with the other trustees and we are like an extended family. Jan Davids is one of our shareholders and he runs a business on the farm that supplies organic eggs to Woolworths.
“We are really grateful for the Stargrow Group’s inputs as without them, we would not have been able to access and utilise the Jobs Fund funding to develop our project.”