There is no fruit on this earth that is safe from Ina Lessing. The energetic 65-year-old has a passion for preserving and bottling and will capture anything in glass, from marulas and makataan (wild watermelon) to quinces, chilies and mangoes. Her interest in cooking has led her to own and manage a large business that makes and distributes her distinctive Ina Lessing range of jams, preserves, balsamic vinegar, syrups, mustards, chutneys, pickles, jellies, biscuits, and rusks to dozens of outlets in Limpopo, Gauteng, the Cape provinces, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. Ina Lessing Jams and Preserves is a testament to the power of innovation and the bonds of family. The business is run from Lusthof, the family farm on the outskirts of Modimolle in Limpopo that belongs to Lessing and her husband, Danie. Her daughters Nicolet and Jana Lessing and Ané van der Walt, and her son Natan Lessing and daughter-in-law Neriché, are all involved in the operation.
The small premises at Lusthof are used to their full extent, with baking taking place in one section, fruit cooking in huge pots in another, sorting in the courtyard, and bottling in a spacious new warehouse that has just been completed.
On the day that Farmer’s Weekly visited the farm, everyone was cooking and bottling fat cling peaches, and in the kitchen, three staff members were stirring the big pots. Lessing’s granddaughter, Romien, on holiday from school, joined in to help Belinda Zuzumbe at the gas stove.
Lessing says that all her children are “intensely interested” in the business, and it is their dedication that is part of the secret to its success. “Danie is our main pillar of strength,” she adds.
A BUDDING BUSINESS
It was 25 years ago that she first thought of the idea of making fruit jams and preserves for sale.
“We started under an afdak [lean-to] with two pots,” she recalls. “Then we moved to a small room, and then we built a small building and a storeroom when the orders became too big.”
At that stage, they supplied jams and preserves to the nearby Tzaneen and Lowveld areas.
It was a time of drought, and Lessing was working as a domestic science teacher while Danie was farming ostriches.
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