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WHAT does a day in the life of a fruit farmer entail?
The rhythm of a farm changes along with the seasons and the length of daylight hours.
Summer is harvest time and we then work from 6am to 6pm and beyond. I spend a few hours in the early mornings and late afternoons in the orchards and then I head for the office.
Unfortunately I have to spend much of my day in meetings or on the phone or behind my computer.
In winter the pace is different because the days are shorter and the harvest season pressures give way to the rhythm of what we call "winter work", which entails the pruning of trees, planting new orchards and doing all kinds of maintenance work.
I also travel regularly since we supply directly to retail. I spend a day or two every week in Cape Town and on average do one trip to Johannesburg every month.
Why did you decide on this career?
I grew up on this farm and it has been in our family for six generations, so farming is "in my blood" pretty much.
How did you get into this career?
I was in the fortunate position that I am part of a family with existing long-term interests in this industry, so I merely followed in my father's footsteps.
What's challenging about the job?
Fruit framing is very capital intensive, so funding the business is a constant pressure.
The risks are high and hard to quantify in farming. All farming is very dependant on weather conditions, so the unpredictability of the weather is a major challenge.
Our business is very export-dependent, so the levels and volatility of exchange rates are also a significant risk factor.
Fruit farming is labour-intensive. Working with large numbers of staff has its rewards and joys, but it can also be very challenging.
What do you love most about your career?
The diversity and eclectic nature of my role as leader of the business is very rewarding and stimulating.
I get to interact with fellow farmers, financiers, business people, consultants, distributors, retailers, marketing professionals through to grassroots labourers every day.
Living and working on a farm in one of the most beautiful parts of the world is a major privilege.
I do not spend any time in traffic and get to experience the great outdoors every day.
What type of person would make a success of this position?
I would say you have to be comfortable with risk.
Farming is also a very hands-on, practical vocation, so you cannot have too much of a "textbook" approach to this industry.
What subjects do you need to pass in high school to be able to study towards this career?
There are no prerequisites for farming, but I would say physics, biology, maths and accountancy will stand one in good stead for this career.
What does one study at tertiary level to get into this career?
I would say there are two major routes in terms of tertiary education - agricultural science or business studies.
The former might involve either a BSc Agric at university or an agriculture diploma at one of the technical colleges like Elsenburg in Stellenbosch.
The latter would typically entail a BCom or BTech in business studies.
What growth prospects are there for this career?
The fruit industry is in a downturn with the world recession and strong rand exchange rate. But we constantly experience a shortage of quality people to fill management positions on farms.