At the SanLucar citrus farm in Rooihoogte (Western Cape), the company promotes long-term agriculture – an inspiring project that not only provides fresh and healthy food but also offers new perspectives.
Alphonso´s working day begins at dawn: Under loud clucking he gets his hens going. Their mobile coop is located in a garden that is unusual – and new. It is a “permaculture garden” set up on the Rooihoogte citrus farm run by SanLucar, an international premium brand for fruit and vegetables, near
In harmony with people and nature Permaculture stands for permanent agriculture through natural gardeners working on the project processes, a self-sustaining ecosystem is created that provides fresh and healthy food for the community living on the citrus farm. The residents take care of the cultivation of the garden. Produce gets sold at the Rooihoogte farm shop, which is collectively owned by the farming community.
Eugenie Grobler, who steers the community development journey at Rooihoogte explains: Our approach is to identify projects that will address multiple needs at the same time to maximize impact. Our development approach resonates with the permaculture approach of seeking ways to promote self-sustaining ecosystems to take root. The combination of a community-owned shop and garden makes sense. Not only can we provide top quality nutritious fruit and vegetables year round, but we can also do this at a low cost.
The profit from sales goes back into the community and we are learning how to grow food in harmony with nature. But that’s not all: “With this garden, we build community as we work and dream together. Especially for the younger ones, we create an exciting task to develop the skills necessary for the management of such a project. It may even help young people to earn a living in the future.”
Our chickens are important members of the community! The chickens help to get the garden free of weeds and provide wholesome, fresh eggs. The permaculture garden fosters the quality of life of the employees and their families, within the SanLucar sustainability program d.r.e.a.m.s. (developing responsible engagement and multicultural societies).
Long-term agriculture – without the use of chemicals
“In harmony with people and nature“: According to this concept, SanLucar has been growing mandarins, clementines, lemons and baby figs in Rooihoogte since 2011. The permaculture garden, however, is still a very young project. Chemical auxiliaries are not used. The organic fertilizer, for example, consists of plant compost and chicken manure. In addition, certain herbs and vegetables between other crops keep pests away. “The diversity of plant species with different smells and textures confuse pests and lessen their impact,” says Kobus Kritzinger, a permaculture expert who leads the permaculture-training project at Rooihoogte.
Certain plants complement each other particularly well, tomatoes thrive when combined with basil, parsley or coriander. Onions (Allium) for example, grow well with cabbages (Brassicaceae). Perennial herbs should be cultivated under fruit trees, especially near annuals, advises Kobus. I create a permanent habitat for insects and birds that help against pests. Even particular weeds perform useful functions such as fixing nitrogen, protecting the soil and controlling pests”.
Healthy and fresh food for the farm community
Ten residents of Rooihoogte build up the core of the garden team formed by volunteers. In the meantime, the garden that was founded in 2017, is bearing its first fruits: pumpkin, spinach, lettuce and beetroot, broccoli, passion fruit and Cape gooseberries. The harvest will help to meet the needs of the crèche and the farm’s community shop. Alphonso will soon have competition, as we are busy constructing a second chicken coop. Eventually, we aim to provide the shop with three dozen eggs a day.
Beetroot turns into furniture
The d.r.e.a.m.s. program helps SanLucar employees to realize their personal dreams. Voluntary community work on projects, for instance, the permaculture garden, is paid for by SanLucar – not in cash, but with credits to a personal d.r.e.a.m.s. savings account. One of the garden volunteers, Jaco, is saving towards new furniture for his home. Eugenie explains: “During the last six years, SanLucar has been renovating and upgrading the homes on the farm. This year, Jaco’s home is one of five houses being renovated. The original house consisted of three rooms; a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. Now it is being transformed into a two bedroomed home with a bathroom, living room, kitchen and stoep. Jaco is super excited about his new home and is saving through d.r.e.a.m.s. to upgrade the interior as well.” This is how Beetroot turns into furniture,” says Eugenie with a smile.
“The permaculture garden in Rooihoogte is still in its infancy. However, the progress is encouraging – and inspiring for everyone involved. We still have a lot to learn and are very interested in exchanging experiences”, explains Eugenie Grobler. “We also have many stories to share. Whoever wants to contact us, go for it!”
SanLucar, the premium brand for fruit and vegetables, is a globally positioned enterprise with subsidiaries in South Africa, Germany, Austria, Spain, Tunisia, Ecuador, Benelux and Dubai. In 1993, the company was founded by Stephan Rötzer in Munich and employs approximately 2,500 people today, the majority of them on the company’s own farms on three continents. With a range of about 90 fruit and vegetable products from more than 35 countries, SanLucar is the brand with the broadest assortment in the retail trade. In line with the philosophy “Taste in harmony with people and nature”, SanLucar is a responsible player on the global fruit and vegetable market and is currently expanding into the Arab Gulf States, Russia, China and Canada.