A lifelong love of animals and trees
Although not the first female farm manager, Amoré Viljoen, farm manager at Lakeview Farm in Villiersdorp since 2020, is among only a tiny percentage of women in senior on-farm positions.
“I think women may look at things differently, have an eye for detail and are more observant than some men are which I think is our advantage,” she says.
Viljoen was raised in Middelburg in the Karoo and has been around agriculture all her life. “I grew up in a house on a one hectare yard where we had fruit trees and vegetables which we cared for. After school I had the opportunity to go study at Grootfontein Agricultural College and got my Diploma to strengthen my agriculture education.
Viljoen spent two years in Hofmeyr, near Cradock, farming with sheep, cattle and game. In the Sundays River Valley she worked as Quality Technician at Xsit, which is a company releasing sterile false codling moths to help control the wild population, a threatening agricultural pest.
A lover of horses all her life, she was selected for the Cape Boerperd Performance team that competed against the SA Boerperd team in 2009.
Today, on Lakeview, her two American Saddlebred horses, Mannetjie and Spaceman, are in the field next to the farm office and near the house where she lives on the farm.
Before coming to Lakeview Farm, Viljoen worked for Fruitways on their Graymead farm as a production manager.
“I had to leave Fruitways to advance my career. Being production manager wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to be more than that. While she has a five-year plan for Lakeview, her long-term plan is to own her own farm. “Owning my own farm is my dream but, like many people who want to have their own farm, I don’t have the available funds. Alternately I shall take up an opportunity to have some equity in the farm in exchange for working there.
“For now, my goal is to put Lakeview Farm back onto the map as a prime provider of premium quality fruit and we are already on the way to achieving this. Due to 30 to 32-year-old fruit trees, management have an aggressive approach to new planting strategies, including high-income cultivars. We had an excellent Packham’s Triumph pear harvest from orchards planted a decade ago and did new plantings in 2018 which will come into production soon,” she says.
Lakeview has also planted Bigbucks, the improved Gala apple varietal discovered by Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing’s New Varietal Expert, Buks Nel. “We are excited about the growth that Bigbucks has already demonstrated,” she adds.
“Although I am aware that only a few women have senior management positions, the bottom line is either you can do the job or not. My advice is that if you as a woman do not see yourself as entirely equal to a man then you won’t be. It starts with confidence in your own skills and abilities. Never stand back. If you have something to contribute, use your voice and make yourself heard.
“One of the things I especially appreciate about Lakeview as a B-BEE farm that is owned by a Worker’s Trust is that the people who work here own a stake in the business. I can see the difference and I like that there is consultation and detailed information sharing in place here. I also appreciate the technical and marketing input we receive from Two-a-Day, which processes our fruit and from Tru-Cape who sells the fruit,” she says.
According to Viljoen, some of the changes on Lakeview have related to using sufficient fertilisers to help put nutrients back into the soil, timeous light management to improve fruit bud development and tree manipulation enforcing tree fertility. The improvement of rest-break recipes as well as more efficient irrigation scheduling has contributed towards quality fruit and tree growth.
Like on the farm, Viljoen has set personal goals. If you have a goal and a strategy to achieve it, you must set your mind to it and work until you achieve it. But, before you start, your mind must be focused,” she ends.
Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing is the largest exporter of South African apples and pears and a business wholly owned by growers. “We are excited about the variety mix at Lakeview and look forward to translating the better quality fruit basket into higher income back to the growers. We also look forward to Amoré Viljoen’s contribution in this regard,” says Tru-Cape, Managing Director, Roelf Pienaar.