All farming enterprises, irrespective of the size of the business, are subject to the unpredictability of the weather and the rhythm of the seasons. Fruit farming is no exception. It is also a capital-intensive business that creates constant financial pressure. Although the risks are high and difficult to quantify, there is no substitute for expertise and knowledge when it comes to fruit farming – and Koelfontein would not be the successful agri-business it is today if these were lacking. The people who work on our farm love what they do and also know what they are doing.
Koelfontein employs around 120 permanent farm labourers, which rises considerably in number during the peak harvest season. The Conradies of Koelfontein have always been mindful of the role the farm plays in sustaining the hundreds of people employed by the business, who are integral to the proud history of this farm. Many of these employees have grown up here and have been involved in Koelfontein’s operations for 20 to 30 years, working shoulder to shoulder with members of the Conradie family.
The family graveyard, which is located a short distance from the main farmstead, bears sacred witness to the importance of Koelfontein’s employees. The first Conradies of Koelfontein and subsequent generations are interred in this graveyard. Farm workers who lived on the farm for a considerable amount of time used to be buried elsewhere on the property, but in latter years the family graveyard has been extended to include burial plots for Koelfontein’s workers. It is a fitting tribute to their labours.
And that is why we like to call Koelfontein our Lewensgrond (“Soil of Life”)
Over the years the business has invested heavily in housing, water and subsidised electricity for permanent staff, as well as in skills training and development.
Training involves both hard and soft skills, beginning at a young age with the farm workers’ children. Koelfontein has a crèche facility where toddlers are cared for and engaged while their mothers work on the farm. School-going children are cared for at our after-care centre where the focus is on literacy and numeracy skills. Both these centres are registered with Department of Social Development and have NPO status. Holiday programmes are also run for the school-going children, which involve activities such as games and sports, and creative exercises such as hand crafts, singing and drama. Koelfontein also emphasises the establishment of a strong values base by teaching children principles of good citizenship through a recycling project, lectures on the history of the farm and region, and environmental awareness by conducting excursions into the veld and the surrounding mountains. Other developmental programmes running on the farm include a Vroueklub where over 50 women working on the farm are exposed to new learning experiences, guest speakers, outings and weekends away for which they also do fundraising. Three trained Health Workers who are part of the Department of Health’s Farm Health Project bring health promotion, early detection and care to the farm community, while three trained Community Development Officers work to encourage participation, create sports, choir and dance groups, and lead outings and learning opportunities over weekends.