New Harvest Winner Gets The Basics Right For Success
Farmer's Weekly|June 19 - 26, 2020
As the son of a farmworker, Sewis van der Horst managed to work his way up to become a farmer in his own right and an exporter of quality fruit. Last year, he was crowned the Toyota New Harvest winner. Jeandré van der Walt visited his operation close to Villiersdorp.

Sewis van der Horst believes the quality of the fruit produced on his farm, Loufontein, is comparable to that of any commercial producer and adds that nothing about his fruit indicates he is an emerging farmer.

Van der Horst, the son of farmworkers, grew up on a stone fruit farm in the Western Cape’s fertile Hoeko Valley.

“I always had a love for farming,” he recalls. “As a child, I’d help pick fruit during the school holidays.”

After matriculating in 1991, he remained on the farm as a general farmworker.

“Agriculture is my passion, but I didn’t want to stay a farmworker for the rest of my life. I wanted to own a farm,” he says.

In 1993, the owners of the farm offered him the chance to attain higher education, and he enrolled for an agricultural diploma at the Kromme Rhee Training Academy, just outside of Stellenbosch.

After completing his studies, he worked in various managerial positions. He then began applying to the government for a land reform farm. After numerous attempts, he finally received property from the then Department of Rural Development and Land Reform through the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy. He was granted a 30-year lease, with the option of buying the land.

In 2016, Van der Horst took charge of the 1 165ha Loufontein just outside of Villiersdorp. When he received the farm, apples, pears, and nectarines had already been planted on 30ha, 12ha, and 1,27ha respectively. However, the orchards and the farm, in general, were not in very good condition.

“The irrigation systems were a mess, the orchards were not pruned properly, and the pest management and fertilizer programs were inadequate,” he recalls. “In addition, the maintenance of the implements was also minimal.”

GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT

Van der Horst had to take any corrective actions. His turnaround strategy was based on the importance of getting the basics right. Needless to say, this included determining what could be done to return the orchards to their full potential.

Fertilization is vital in rectifying deficiencies and imbalances.

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