An initiative of

André and Madaléne Spangenberg

Groenheuwel

Hi, we are André and Madaléne Spangenberg and we cultivate organic citrus fruits for Nature & More at Augrabies 120 km from Upington in South Africa. Our farm Groenheuwel Boerdery is located in the fertile valley of Orange River, one of the largest rivers of South Africa. Love the time of the year when the citrus trees been blooming – everything smells clean and fresh. 

We have decided to start farming all citrus organic in 2001. Organic is more healthy for both the people who are working with it and for the end consumer. For us as a grower on the farm, it is more challenging as we make our own compost, and do our own exports. We expanded the property which now covers approximately 6,000 hectares. 445 hectares are dedicated to fruit growing of which 160 of these are cultivated organically since 2001. 

Our solar project on the farm became real in 2020. We have installed 2775 panels. Total capacity: 1.124.55KWp, generating 2 393 MW/h per year. Total ESKOM consumption was reduced to 70% of the total yearly electricity costs!

 

 

Interview

N&M: What motivated you to start with the production of organic citrus?
André: One of the reasons we started the organic citrus production was diversification at our farm, and increasing year-round employment for our workers. We have been producing conventional grapes for a long time, but the drawback is that grapes have a very short season from December to January. By starting organic citrus production we are lengthening our production season, we could create permanent employment for a lot of our previously temporary workers. We are now in the position to offer them work for a nine months period, which means a benefit for them and their families in this rural area.

Madaléne: Andre's brother was already into organics when we started with citrus in 2000. After recognizing the advantages of organic production, we also decided to produce the citrus organically. We visited André’s brother regularly and realized the potential of our farm for organic production. Our remote location, far away from other farms and industry, means that there is no risk of outside contamination.

N&M: Organic farming does require a different mind set from conventional farming. What was your experience during your transition to organic production? 
Madeline: With our conventional grape production, we have already reduced the use of fertilizers. We use a lot of organic matter such as muld instead and we believe that this makes a difference. Organic agriculture fits in well with our lifestyle.

N&M: Community development for the employees seems to be important for Groenheuwel Boerdery. What have you organized for the community? 
André: Before the working day begins the people have the opportunity to attend an Ecumenical Morning Prayer. A priest is invited every day to pray and sing with them. One of the workers is currently being trained to become the priest of the community.

Madaléne: One of our employees was working temporarily on another farm, 500 km from here. He told the farm management enthusiastically about the Morning Prayer ritual at Groenheuwel and how important it is for him and our people. When the farm manager contacted us we shared our experiences with him and he has now also introduced the Morning Prayer at his farm.

André: Furthermore, we organize many technical education programmes such as tractor driving, preparing compost and learning about irrigation systems for on the fields. We provide houses for our workers to ensure that they feel at home here, and have a lot of different adult education programmes, formal, as well as informal.

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