Johannes de Lange

Blue Crane

My name is Johannes and I grow organic oranges, lemons and mandarins for Nature & More in the East Cape province of South Africa. Our company, Blue Crane, grows organic citrus together with one other independent organic farmer. Thank you for buying our fruit!

The Blue Crane farm is located in the Sundays River Valley. We are close to the Greater Addo National Park, an elephant reserve comprising of 1.2 million acres of land set aside for animals to roam freely. Apart from elephants, other large animals can be found here such as the black rhinoceros, buffalo’s, antelopes and lions. The Sundays River receives water from one of the largest rivers in South Africa, the Orange River. Apart from citrus cultivation, sailing and fishing are the main activities. 

The name Blue Crane stems from the national bird of South Africa. The feathers of this Blue Crane bird were traditionally used by the Xhosa people who put these in their hair when preparing for battle. The men with the Blue Crane feathers were called Ugaba (trouble) – it was believed that when there was trouble, these men would reinstate peace and order. 

Organic farming started here many years ago when I noticed that the warm air of the valley was no longer laden with the scent of oranges, due to intensive use of chemicals. More and more growers went out of business, because of the deregulation of the citrus industry. Many parts of the valley were neglected. After doing some research, I decided that organic farming was the answer to both these problems. Now the orchards are strong and healthy again!

Blue Crane Farm has developed it’s own way of producing and selling organic crops. We hope to attract more growers to change to organic farming in the future!

Interview with Johannes

N&M: Why did you make the transition to organic?

Johannes: My parents-in-law moved here in the mid 1990’s. In those years you could see the chemicals, applied to the citrus trees, hover over the valley like a fog. Some of the local doctors blame the chemicals for increasing allergic problems, high bronchitis rates and even considered it dangerous to pregnant women. We were threatening the beautiful valley that sustains us! We decided that someone had to start something in order for change to happen, and so we converted part of our production to organic in 2000. Of course we were also motivated by the higher prices paid for organic crops, but switching to organic practices does involve taking risks.

N&M: What kind of risks?

Johannes: It takes a lot more effort to grow organic fruit, which comes at a higher cost. For example, we keep the ground of our orchards covered in green all year because it’s better for the soil. But that meant that we had to adjust our irrigation system, because the cover needs to be watered too! The green cover provides habitat for beneficial insects, but it can also harbor pests such as snails, which we need to control.

N&M: Some organic farmers employ ducks and geese for the control of slugs and snails – do you?

Johannes: That may well work on small farms in Europe, but our environment is different. We have tried to work with geese, but unfortunately we lost all of them to wild cats! One of our growers observed that guinea fowls are much faster in escaping from these predators. They also tend to stay when fed regularly. This is why we are now experimenting with them in order to find out how effective they are.

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