In 1998 the 28 beneficiaries of the Kliprivier Kleinboere Trust made use of LRAD funding from the Department of Land Affairs to buy a 29.9ha fallow section of Romansrivier Farm at Wolseley from the farm’s owner CG Zeeman. The beneficiaries were all farm workers on Romansrivier and in the 20 years since the Trust bought this property, the number of beneficiaries has decreased to 21.
At the time of purchase there were no orchards on this property and initially trust beneficiaries raised cattle and later farmed with butternuts on the property. The income that they derived from this provided the funding with which they started establishing fruit orchards.
“In 2004 we started farming with fruit trees and planted the first two hectares of Packham’s Triumph pears. We were all still permanent employees, working for Mr Zeeman at Romansrivier,” explained Charles Pietersen, chairman of the Kliprivier Kleinboere Trust and MD of Kliprivier Farm. “Mr Zeeman was our mentor and helped us a great deal. To be honest, if it was not for his financial help and guidance, we probably would not have our farm today. Initially we did not have a water allocation and Mr Zeeman assisted us to secure this. We applied for a dam and this was successful and our dam was completed in 2012. In addition to the dam we have an allocation from the river and together we have sufficient water for our orchards.
“As the trust’s property adjoins Mr Zeeman’s farm he allocated work time to us to work in our orchards and mentored us in their planting and establishment. We were recipients of trees from the Hortgro Tree project and we were able to establish 4.4ha of Bon Chretien pears and 4.4ha of Forelle pears. In 2016 we established 5ha of Packhams Triumph.
When our trees started producing Mr Zeeman had our fruit packed alongside his at Wolfpack, the local pack house and marketed the trust‘s fruit on behalf of the trustees. As our yield increased, in 2014 we asked Mr Zeeman to assist us in arranging for us to deliver our fruit to Wolfpack directly under our own name. This was successful and we started to deliver our own fruit independently.
In 2015 I resigned from Romansrivier in order to take over the management of our farm on a full time basis. We now also have a team of employees who are permanent workers on the farm. In 2016 and 2017 we moved from Wolfpack and had our fruit packed at Graaff Fruit in Prince Alfred Hamlet. This worked well but unfortunately the packing capacity at Graaff Fruit was becoming limited. Our farm has a share in the Agri-Life Fruit (Pty) Ltd. pack house in Wolseley and we have packed some of our fruit there recently but for the rest of this harvest we arranged for our fruit to be packed at De Keur in Ceres.”
The rest of the beneficiaries still work for Mr Zeeman. Veronica Sauls is a beneficiary of the Trust. She also still works for Mr Zeeman but assists Charles with some of the trust’s functions. Jaguer Pietersen was appointed as the trust’s administrative clerk in 2016. His mother is one of the trustees and as Jaguer had studied Human Resource Management at Boland College and had experience in administration after working at a local school, he was a good candidate for this position. The trust now does all its own administration and we have recently also arranged office space for this function.
“We do not have a packhouse or chemical store and currently we have to hire this infrastructure. We have put applications in to the Department of Agriculture’s Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) for a pack house and chemical store and we were told that these applications ware to be transferred to the Jobs Fund project,” explained Veronica.
In 2017 the Trust received approval to purchase a 51ha piece of undeveloped land that adjoins their property with a commercial loan from Standard Bank. “The new farm has a borehole and a water allocation so we will be able to mix surface and ground water to achieve a better quality water,” says Charles. “We will have sufficient water to be able to irrigate 16ha on this farm. Adding this new farm to our existing farm will be a great help and will make it possible for us to expand into the future.
“Since we have been beneficiaries of the Jobs fund during 2016 we have received 2.26ha of Packhams pears with all the soil preparation and infrastructure required. We did not receive anything during 2017. For 2018 the Jobs und has approved us for 3ha but we are only planting 1ha. We hope to plant the additional 2ha on our new property.
“I want to say thank you to Hortgro and the Jobs Fund for their inputs. This assistance will be a great help to us moving forward, both the infrastructure and the extremely helpful technical advice that we have received from the technical advisors that are assisting us in the process.”