Stettyn sets example by up-skilling opportunities for staff
In the Bossieveld area of Villiersdorp, about 20-minutes outside the town, historic farms like Radyn and Stettyn line both sides of the roads as the eye takes in the vista of the Stettyn mountain range. Named after a town in Germany from where a 1714-owner came, today, and since 1818, eight generations of Botha family members have farmed at Stettyn.
Although Stettyn Cellar is the largest and certainly most visible aspect of the business, Hendrik and Wena Botha who are farming Stettyn Vineyards are also outstanding apple and pear growers.
“We have only 20 hectares apples and pears and finished harvesting just before Easter,” Hendrik says. But, considering they are recent winners of Grabouw’s apple and pear processor, Two-a-Day’s prestigious trophy for the highest income per bearing hectare, they are punching high above their weight-class. Hendrik Botha was appointed a Two-a-Day company director in 2022.
“We have about 40 people on our full-time staff and 25 on-farm homes. As my wife Wena works, we expect that both people in the staff’s family unit contribute an income. And, through our own creche and the Stettyn Primary School, we support our farm family,” says Hendrik.
The wine side of the business has five shareholders and a range that covers small-bloc old vines to easy quaffing ones. Hendrik, Stettyn Vineyards Managing Director, who originally trained in viticulture and oenology, continues to play a vital role in the wine business. However, apples and pears and, more recently soft citrus, are also important crops.
A recent expansion and joint-venture with Two-a-Day is the opening of a one million-litre juice concentrate storage facility to store fruit concentrate. “We positioned the juice storage facility next to the cellar but we also paid a lot of attention to building it in a way that can easily be replicated if demand grows sufficiently. We already have a future site mapped out,” he says.
On the opposite side of the road to the wine cellar and their family home is a tract of uncultivated land. “My father always taught me the value of water security so we, as a Stettyn group, have invested heavily in building a dam at an elevation which means we don’t have to use a lot of power to pump water to irrigate. Around the dam are plains game – Black Wildebeest, Bontebok, Zebra, and Eland. A skittish group of Springbok skedaddle as we approach. “My grandfather loved animals and for many years he had a giraffe living near his house. All the Botha family members share his passion for nature,” he says.
Wena Botha is hands-on in the family business while also working as a medical doctor in Villiersdorp. “The new Department of Health clinic that opened recently in Villiersdorp is such a pleasure now – it is a world-class facility and something we can be very proud of,” she says. “On the farm medical screening for, amongst others TB and HIV, is mandatory. The State provides free medicine for HIV prevention and treatment and with correct treatment a child born to an HIV+ mother can be HIV free. 25 years ago it was a death sentence,” she says.
Hendrik Botha holds a weekly meeting with all the staff. “We use this opportunity to talk through the challenges and to detail the whole process from planting the grape to selling the bottle of wine and we discuss the same process on the fruit side. I incentivise staff to focus on quality rather than quantity. We have an attainable daily picking target which gives people more time to take care and to avoid bruising. Producing top quality fruit is a massive team effort, well trained staff, world-class Two-a-Day technical staff doing weekly visits and giving daily feedback during harvesting, all contribute.
“Our farm’s goal is to optimise the on-farm class one fruit we send to Two-a-Day which then gets marketed for us under the Tru-Cape brand.
“We also have an organisational chart which clarifies where each person fits into the business. And, we encourage our staff to up-skill by, for example, getting a driving licence even if they aren’t drivers. The more skills the higher up the chart and income ladder people can go. We see the good in everyone and believe people want to and can improve. I believe in incentivising staff which I also wish our government might do to grow the agricultural sector and create more sustainable employment,” he says.
Wena says that they are always on the look out for promising candidates from within the on-farm families. “Not only did we change the crops we plant to allow for more work for our staff for the whole year but we also actively look for ways to add value to their lives. One of our employee’s children, who showed a lot of potential, was passionate about becoming a sound engineer and we unsuccessfully approached a number of institutions to get a bursary for him and, in the end, we decided we’d fund his programme ourselves. He has blossomed and it is rewarding to see that we have made a positive contribution to his life,” Wena ends.
Attie van Zyl, Managing Director of Two-a-Day Group says that Hendrik and Wena Botha are indeed progressive and innovative farmers who are doing commercially well despite tough conditions. “Hendrik was appointed to our board in 2022 and I rate him highly. He and Wena have a heart for their staff and they are doing a lot of work behind the scenes for their staff and their staff’s children and are an excellent example of the modern South African farmer,” he says.
As the largest exporter of South African apples and pears, Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing has customers in 105 countries. Tru-Cape Managing Director, Roelf Pienaar, says that Tru-Cape’s customers care about the positive way growers support their staff and contribute to a better South Africa for all. “The Stettyn example is one which many Tru-Cape growers already follow and of which we are proud,” he ends.