by Louise Brodie

Fruits of his labour

Theo Erasmus tells his story of how he started in farming and how he got to the position he is in today

Theo Erasmus is the 2012 Deciduous Fruit Industry Award for farm worker in management position
Theo Erasmus email.JPG

In 2012 Theo Erasmus, the Assistant Production Manager at the Cape Orchard Company's Arcadia Farm in Clanwilliam, received the Deciduous Fruit Industry Award for a deciduous farm worker in a management position, winning the award from a group of more than 20 nominees in this category.

The winner was announced at the Deciduous Fruit Award Ceremony gala evening that took place in September 2012 in Cape Town’s prestigious Cape Sun Hotel. The prize was a trip to the European markets and attendance of the Fruit Logistica international trade show in Berlin, Germany.

When I have the opportunity to visit Arcadia Farm in Clanwilliam to meet Theo Erasmus during late April, the table grape harvest is long over and the vine leaves are showing the first colourful signs of Autumn. Theo arrives with a smile and a firm handshake before settling down to share his remarkable experiences and recollections of his visit to Fruit Logistica and the European fruit markets.

“Attending Fruit Logistica was truly the experience of a lifetime. To see stalls from all the countries of the world and all the highly unusual fruit and vegetables that we never see in South Africa, was a true eye-opener that I will never forget.

We were only there for two days but that was enough to leave me with a lifetime’s impressions. Seeing the high standard that the international fresh produce sector maintains and expects was both an inspiration and a wake-up call for us as visitors to the show.

“In 2011 Mr De Wet, the farm manager suggested that I enter in the local farm worker of the year competition and I was fortunate enough to win the competition. After that, Mr De Wet nominated me for the Deciduous Fruit Industry Farm Worker/ Management Position award. This was both exciting and nerve-wracking as there were around 20 nominees. 

"When the Le Roux Group advertised agricultural positions at Broodkraal Estate, I applied for a job and was successful so moved to Broodkraal with my wife and children.”

“I worked at Broodkraal for 12 years before I came to Arcadia. Mr De Wet started working at Broodkraal in 2003 and we worked together there for five years.

“He mentored me and assisted in my promotion through the ranks to assistant manager. In 2008 Mr De Wet left Broodkraal for the Cape Orchard Company’s Arcadia Farm at Clanwilliam and said he would call me if there was a post for me there. Two months later he called me with a job offer. We moved here soon after that and my family and I are very happy here.

“My wife and I had three daughters but my eldest daughter passed away three years ago. Her son was six at the time and he now lives with us. This was devastating but we have coped as best as we could since then. It has helped that we truly enjoy Arcadia’s quieter lifestyle.

“Arcadia has 60 ha of table grape vineyards. During the harvest we employ between 200 and 250 seasonal workers who come to work here from Kuruman, Zimbabwe and some from our local town, Clanwilliam. It is the job of the two assistant managers on Arcadia Farm to supervise the seasonal workers. Coming here was a big challenge.

"I have grasped this with both hands and worked hard to make it successful. All of us experience difficulties but facing our problems and conquering them just makes us stronger. The people who were living and working here when I arrived took some time to accept me and today we work well together.

“I would like to encourage other farm workers who give their best to their job and community to enter competitions and agree to nomination for these awards as this trip has broadened my horizons and given me a far deeper understanding of our industry and its place in the global fresh produce supply.”

 

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