Small-scale farming couple supply goods to major retail store for over 30 years
Durban - A La Mercy couple believes teamwork and dedication have made them successful small-scale farmers.
Balamanie Govender, 68, and her husband, Krish Naidu, 72, have been supplying their fresh produce to Shoprite for more than 30 years.
The couple has a 14-hectare farm near the M4 northern highway on which they grow a variety of produce. These include red and green herbs (sour herbs), coriander, watercress, mint, beetroot, spinach and cherry belle radishes. They also grow marigolds.
Govender, a mother of three, said she took over the operations of the farm after her first husband died.
“It was challenging as I was at home with the children, while he tended to the farm. But knowing I had three young children to take care of, I was able to do it. My late husband was already supplying the Shoprite group, so I continued to do so."
Naidu, a father of four, joined Govender in the business about 20 years ago. He said farming came naturally to him.
"I came from a farming stock, where my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles were farmers. They either grew vegetables or had livestock. As the eldest son, I worked on the farm, so it was easy to adjust when I joined Balamanie."
He said their 12-hour working day generally started at 5am.
“When we get home each day, we plan what we will do the following day so everything goes smoothly. My wife and I work hand-in-hand, which is important."
Their busiest days were Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
“On these days, we deliver the produce. The staff will get the order ready in the morning and I deliver them to the Shoprite warehouse. They, in turn, will distribute it to the stores. In order to supply Shoprite, we had to meet certain requirements, follow a growing programme, and, most importantly, follow a food safety programme for which we get audited annually."
They said despite farming for many years, they still felt proud to see the end product of their hard work.
"The joy we get from farming is unexplainable but it is rewarding," said Naidu.
Naidu said farming was expensive and that theft on their property had led to them making minor changes.
"There are various costs that go into farming. We need seedlings, chemicals, fertiliser and there are labour costs. These amount to a lot. Also, over the years, we have had theft of water pipes and it’s copper fittings, so now we just use plastic fittings.”
Govender said the farm had an abundance of spring water, as the land was at a low-lying level, and this was used for irrigation.
The couple said their children were grown and had their own careers and that they did not know who would take over the farm.
"But we will continue for as long as we can because we love what we do and it helps to put food on the table for our staff and their families," said Govender.
The couple has employed 16 full-time workers, who live near the farm.
In a statement, Shoprite said it was passionate about growing the local economy and giving small suppliers, such as the couple, access to new consumer markets and to create jobs.