Uitvlught Farm, Helderstroom

Uitvlught is a 162ha farm with 58ha of apple orchards situated near Helderstroom in the Overberg district. The farm was bought in 2008 by the 138 members of the Uitvlught Farming Trust with LRAD funding through the Department of Land Affairs. The beneficiaries are farm workers from four farming units; Uitvlught (18 beneficiaries), Lanzerac in Stellenbosch (17 beneficiaries), Wapadskloof in Grabouw (17 beneficiaries) and the bulk from Lourensford in Somerset West, (86 beneficiaries).

The farms are owned by the Uitvlugt Boerdery Trust, of whom the beneficiaries is again the 4 workers trust mentioned before. Today, ten years later, there are 130 beneficiaries. The Trust has a five-year management agreement with the Karsten. The Karsten Group assist the management of Uitvlught Farm with technical mentorship and also pack and sell the farm’s fruit on their behalf. Cobus Nel from the Karsten Group is the mentor to the management at Uitvlught and works closely with management in the planning and implementation of farming activities.

Hans Kouter is the Production Manager at Uitvlught as well as Vice Chairman of the Uitvlught Farming Trust and is originally from Uitvlught. Copido Koker is the Assistant Manager at Uitvlught and is originally from Lourensford in Somerset West. Both Hans and Cupido are beneficiaries of the Trust.

“Water has been a big problem for us as last year we did not have enough water for all our orchards,” explained Hans. “We bought a pump but this could not provide enough water to irrigate all our orchards and they orchards suffered damage last year.

“We have really only managed to irrigate all our orchards because we have removed 18 hectares of the oldest, least productive orchards to ensure that our other orchards have enough water. We also have a pump in the river that has helped us. We now also have water from the mountain and we have managed to improve our irrigation systems to be able to irrigate all our orchards adequately. We would like to build a storage dam but we do not currently have the funds.”

Many of the orchards were originally established from seedlings as the farm used to include a nursery and were originally planted as fruit for juicing. These orchards have considerable variations in bearing and generally lower yields. “Our orchards are old and many of them were planted in 1989,” says Cupido. “We were able to plant 5ha of Royal Beaut apple trees and 12ha of Packhams Triumph pears as a result of the Hortgro tree project and these trees are bearing well for us.”

“Since we were identified as recipients of the Jobs Fund project we have planted 5ha of Royal Beaut in 2016 and 3ha of Packhams Triumph in 2017, says Hans. “In 2018 we are not planting but doing soil preparation in order to plant a further 18ha in 2019. This will be Big Bucks, Rosy Glo, Fuji and Sundowner, all apple varieties. The Jobs Fund provides all the soil preparation as well as the infrastructure for the orchards. We have to supply the labour to implement this and cover the cost for the labour. Currently we have 18 permanent workers (all beneficiaries of the Uitvlught Workers’ Trust), 160 seasonal workers and 43 casual workers.

“We are concerned as we realise that we will need to find additional funding to cover the cost of planting and establishing our trees. The actual wages only forms part of the cost as we have to transport workers in from Somerset West and also rent accommodation locally to house them during the week. We are trying to access a loan from the Land Bank and if this is not successful, we will need to borrow funds for this from a commercial institution.”