Asparagus project creates almost 900 jobs in Eastern Free State

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Asparagus might be considered a boring veggie by some, but in South Africa the VKB Group has proven that it can be a great tool for job creation. This leading agricultural enterprise has announced that it has created 46 full-time and more than 850 seasonal jobs through a project for new asparagus farmers.

VKB recently showcased its enterprise model for new farmers, in partnership with the Jobs Fund at the Morgenson farm near Rosendal, a predominantly maize, cattle and wheat farming town in the Free State.

According to Piet Potgieter, who manages the Developing Agriculture division of VKB, asparagus was introduced as a high value and long term crop to increase economies of scale. “Not many people know that asparagus has a lifespan of 13 years. It’s a perennial veggie, meaning that the initial planting efforts are rewarded annually for about 10 years after the first harvest in year three.”

The first asparagus seeds for VKB’s launch project were imported at the end of 2016 and transplanted early in 2017. Asparagus seed was imported to propagate seedlings which was then transplanted in fields at the Eastern Free State town of Rosendal and the Qwa-Qwa region. The Qwa-Qwa leg of the project involves four farmers over 60 hectares, whilst the Rosendal leg empowered five farmers on 75 hectares. The first asparagus harvest took place from August to October 2018.

asparagus has a lifespan of 13 years

During the briefing session, VKB and other agricultural stakeholders, including the Jobs Fund and Denmar, announced that the nine asparagus farmers are now benefiting from access to prominent local retailers, such as Pick n Pay, Freshmark and Fruit and Veg, as well as export markets through Denmar’s extensive distribution and marketing network.

In 2012, VKB in association with the Grain Farmer Development Association (GFADA) established a farmer development programme to assist high-potential new farmers who had few resources. Today the project not only involves grain, but also asparagus because of its clear commercial advantages.

Potgieter says the project aims to establish sustainable asparagus enterprises, and to increase scale economy and profit for developing farmers, in addition to their  existing farms. Farmers’ lands were expanded, as the asparagus was established on additional land being leased through long term notarial lease agreements.

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VKB is a Food For Mzansi partner. Our work is supported by the contributions of our partners, who have no right of control over editorial content. Read more on our Partners page.

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