After graduating from Queen’s College in Queenstown and working on various farms in England, Denton returned to Ettrick in the mid-1970s. Both the overseas experience and the time spent in his father’s service were a valuable learning school, he says, but they still faced many obstacles before eventually establishing Denmar Dairies as the reputable dairy stakeholder it is today.
“My father’s point of departure was to empower his children through education, but after that it was up to us to shape our lives. We didn’t have the option of loans or financial grants. To start my own business, I had to stand on my own two feet.”
Start small, gain big
Ettrick is actually a ‘poor’ farm with very little potential, and Denton realised that he would have to do something radically different to carve out a decent life for himself here. It was then that he decided to increase the existing dairy herd of 13 cows and to start packaging and marketing the milk himself.
“I rented a part of my father’s farm and later built a small milk processing plant, where we initially only bottled milk and sold it in the surrounding towns. At the time there was a dairy factory in Slabberts that belonged to the Mid Free State Dairy Cooperative – we used to take our milk there in jugs with a mule cart. The decision to start packaging and marketing the milk ourselves caused quite a stir. One factory official came to see me and even threatened me! Interestingly, that same person came to us years later to apply for a job.”
That very factory at Slabberts is now Denmar’s administrative headquarters, while the processing plant where milk is packaged and other products are now being made, is located at Ettrick.
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