by Louise Brodie

Jan Le Fleur, new entrant in fruit industry

Another winner for the 2012 Deciduous Fruit Industry Award

Jan le Fleur was awarded the New Entrant into the deciduous fruit industry last year
Jan le Fleur - email.JPG

 

It is a crisp morning in the Ceres Valley when I have arranged to meet a clearly busy Jan le Fleur. The Topfruit harvest is nearing its end and he has been pretty active for some months now. He arrived hurriedly in a pickup from a previous task and took some time to chat to me about his experiences during his visit to Europe in the solid rondavel building that serves as Coshla farm office.

“The trade show showcases the international fruit and vegetable industry and this represents one of the most important elements in the diets of the world’s population. Seeing the stalls from all corners of the world made me realise how strong the market competition is for our products. The incredible mechanisation innovations in packaging made my jaw drop, along with the array of fruit and vegetable kinds that I had never seen before.

“We travelled to Europe for the visit to Fruit Logistica and the markets during early February, the heart of the European winter. Visiting the cold storage facilities and supermarkets was a very important lesson to see the consequences of correct and incorrect picking, packing and labeling practices as well as the associated financial results.

When we visited a Sainsbury’s outlet in the UK I spotted three bags of nectarines produced on our farms and was quite thrilled to meet one of our enthusiastic consumers myself! She was so determined to buy some more of this fruit that she would not part with a packet of these nectarines in the shop. She told me that these were her favourite and she was returning to buy more of them as she was very impressed with the taste and quality of our fruit. After all the years of planting, producing and picking, it was indeed an exciting moment to come face-to-face with a real consumer of our fruit!”

Le Fleur was born and grew up on the farm Donkerbos in the Koue Bokkeveld. After matric he completed an agricultural training course at Kromme Rhee training college near Stellenbosch during 1991 and then returned to the farming life. He started working at Vastrap for the Dutoit Group. “When I started at Vastrap I was a general worker but over the years I progressed to foreman, then production assistant and finally production manager. While I was production manager at Vastrap I became a shareholder in Crispy Farming.”

In the process of establishing Crispy Farming, the Dutoit Group bought up small farms around Ceres, many of which had old orchards that needed replacing. These farms also required experienced managers to run the properties. As part of the development of Crispy Farming, Jan was selected as a farm manager for one of these units. He has been managing Coshla Farm for the past four years. Coshla has 101ha of orchards consisting of 21ha apples, 25ha nectarines and 55ha pears.

“When we started at Coshla we planted numerous hectares of new trees and these are now starting to bear fruit. This season we have been blessed with a good harvest as far as production goes and we are expectantly waiting to evaluate how our entire harvest performed in the marketplace,” says Jan.

“During 2012 I was at work when I received a call from someone who told me that I had been nominated for the Deciduous Industry New Entrant to the industry award. This came as a big surprise as I was unaware of this! I discovered that I had been nominated in this category by the Dutoit Group but I took part in the process as requested.

“The lasting impression that this trip to Europe and Fruit Logistica left with me is that the competition that our fruit faces in the market place is incredibly fierce. For us as emerging farmers to succeed, our farming operations need to be economically viable and need to be strong enough to cope with the very real global trends and pressures to keep up.

“We must provide the market with what it needs and be able to survive and grow on the returns we receive. The economically driven market has no mercy for struggling emerging farming operations and we as emerging farmers need to work together and help each other where possible under these difficult circumstances.

Again I am incredibly grateful for the support that the Dutoit Group provides for us within Crispy Farming. I also have a special debt of gratitude to Deon Van Zyl, mentor to the Crispy Farming Group and also my personal mentor for many years.

 

 

 

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