Tulpieskraal Workers’ Trust

The farm Tulpieskraal near Joubertina has been owned by the Kritzinger family for generations. In 2006, when the opportunity arose to improve the lives of the people employed on the farm, Bokkie Kritzinger assisted 30 of the farm’s employees to buy 25ha of Tulpieskraal. This was achieved through LRAD funding and this 25ha of the farm is owned 100% by the Tulpieskraal Workers’ Trust.

Once this process was completed, both Bokkie Kritzinger and the new owners of the property found that continued government involvement and assistance which had been promised was not forthcoming. At the time that the project was initiated Government had promised to pay the new farm’s electricity bill as well as to enlarge a dam that supplies water to the farm but this never realised. As a result, Bokkie had to become involved with taking care of and financing the project at a far greater level than he had anticipated.

“If we had not received assistance and funding from Bokkie, our project would probably have failed,” says Booi van Rooyen, Chairman of the Tulpieskraal Workers’ Trust. “He is the project’s mentor and helps with the day-to-day running of the farm along with the rest of Tulpieskraal.”

The trust was fortunate enough to receive 5ha of Forelle pear trees from the Hortgro tree project a few years ago and these trees are growing really well. To save the costs of duplicating a workforce and implements, the 25ha that belongs to the workers’ trust is largely farmed as a division of the larger Tulpieskraal. The trust has its own administration and bookkeeping system that keeps track of costs and profits and this information is available to, and shared with, the trustees. The trust hires seasonal workers to prune the trees and harvest the fruit.

Bokkie and Booi agreed at the time that it is very important to ensure that beneficiaries are content and paying out an annual dividend to them is very important. This has been possible every year except one year when the farm sustained severe hail damage. Today there are 21 employees and 33 beneficiaries.

“The Jobs Fund grant of plant material, soil preparation, irrigation, and trellising infrastructure is a huge help to the project,” says Booi. “We removed old orchards and replaced them with 5ha of Packhams’ Triumph pear trees in 2017. These trees are looking great. We received a further 3ha in 2018 and planted them in July. We planted the new orchards using trellising poles tall enough to cover the orchards with hail nets. At this stage, we do not have the funds to install the nets but the poles are already in place and it will be easier to do this at a later stage when we are able to afford this. We have also received a tractor and chemical sprayer cart from the Jobs Fund. This has been very helpful as it made us less reliant on Tulpieskraal for implements.”

The Jobs Fund’s new orchards are partly part of the expansion and partly replacing existing peach orchards. The trust replaced the peach orchards that were less productive with young trees. There will therefore be a few lean years for the trust as these trees mature and will start producing from 2023. It is therefore fortuitous that most of the beneficiaries are employed on Tulpieskraal.

Tulpieskraal has great water security, both from storage dams on the property as well as through the registration of their irrigation quota allotment with the local agricultural irrigation board.

Bokkie sadly passed away on 3 January 2020 in a bike accident on the farm. Andre and Gerhard, Bokkie’s sons, had to take over from his dad. The Workers’ Trust is still operating in the same way as in the past when Bokkie was the mentor. There was clearly a long tradition and great sense of trust between Bokkie and Booi and the rest of the trustees and it is clear that Bokkie’s motive was to assist the trustees. This was illustrated when Bokkie and Booi posed for the photo in the orchard as they were upbeat, laughing with familiar jokes and jibes between them. They had been childhood playmates and pretty much grew up together. Andre and Gerhard are just as much part of this farming family, having known Booi and many of the other trustees almost all their lives. It is this kind of shared history that makes working together within a relationship of mutual trust very rewarding.

“We are blessed to have water, albeit reduced to 20% and the Jobs Fund grant did provide us with security for our future successes,” concluded Booi with a huge smile.

When the terrible hail came in January this year, the Worker’s Trust had 30% damage, but fortunately, they had hail insurance. Even with the hail onslaught, the pack outs were still very good with 88% export quality.