Third-generation farmer Vickie Bruwer of Genade Boerdery in the Northern Cape believes that mercy has carried his family through their farming pitfalls.
A humble and spiritually centered Bruwer, who farms with his three sons in Douglas, Northern Cape, says “we can see and experience the hand of the Lord every day in all our farming activities.”
Bruwer’s father and grandfathers, who were all dedicated to the land, taught him everything he knows about farming today. The 62-year-old farmer, born and raised in the Northern Cape, says his forefathers cultivated a love for farming within him as well as the courage to tackle any challenge.
His mind was always set on working in agriculture and, after matriculating from Hoër Landbouskool Jacobsdal, he planned to become a winemaker. However, life proved otherwise when his grandfather passed away.
“I had to go to the farm, Bossiesspan, to help my grandmother in the Jacobsdal area. It was mainly a livestock farm with a small amount of irrigation from the Modder River.”
At the time Bruwer was also working as a correctional officer as a duty of service to the country, which was compulsory for white men under the then apartheid regime. He says, “I had the advantage that I could still help farm part-time through the day and then work nightshift at the jail.”
Farming isn’t his only love. At the age of 23, Bruwer married his wife, Trisa. Their union of 40 years was sparked through Trisa’s brother who was one of Bruwer’s best friends at school. The couple was blessed with three sons: Gerhard (38), Hannes (35) and Vickie Junior (31).
When a severe drought hit in 1984, the Modder River dried up and they were under enormous pressure to continue with farming operations. This was the most difficult thing that Bruwer had ever encountered in his life as a farmer. They had to start over somewhere else, sell their livestock and put a lease on their land.
“I then moved to Douglas and installed and developed pivots in my father’s field. I had no choice but to go after the water, as I had to do it for financial survival,” says Bruwer.
Eventually, in 1997, Bruwer established his own farming enterprise called Genade Boerdery. Amongst other things the agribusiness produces maize, lucerne, potatoes and cotton. For the 62-year-old, farming is about four key aspects – faith, nature, challenges and human relations.
“It is a great privilege for me and for us as Genade Boerdery to be able to work in nature every day and produce food for millions of people around the world.”
Genade directly translates to “mercy”. According to Bruwer, it was mercy that carried him and his farming operations through trials and tribulations over the years. “Mercy brought us here. Human relationships and hard work have also helped us a lot. We can see and experience the hand of the Lord every day in all our farming activities.”
All three of his sons became farmers and joined their father in the family business. Bruwer says “farming is in our blood” and his sons agree and share the same sentiment.
The brothers have 21 years of farming experience and each one is responsible for his specific farming division. Hannes obtained a degree in mixed farming from the University of Free State and is responsible for the popcorn production. Gerhard is a qualified winemaker and Vickie jnr, a qualified artisan.
Hannes says,“Farming was built in our DNA from a young age and the love was cultivated early on in our lives. All three of us had vegetable gardens and sometimes pets to take care of as toddlers. So, farming was a logical choice”.
When Bruwer looks at his sons today, he is proud to see that each one of them has paved a way for themselves. They have followed their different dreams, and because of it their diversity benefits Genade Boerdery greatly. After all, Genade Boerdery’s motto is “diversity in unity”.
Gerhard says because they work together as a unit it strengthens and positively affects the business. “Collaboration is a great privilege. We focus on each one’s strengths and can boldly show each other love with confidence and correct each other where mistakes are made. We also believe in positive criticism.”
The Bruwer sons are all married and have blessed their parents with seven grandchildren. They are a big, happy family filled with love, care and a sense of humor. When asked who is the strongest amongst the brothers, Hannes said he is definitely the strongest because he plays rugby. Gerhard said that he is convinced he’s the prettiest because he worked in France as a winemaker, and Vickie Jnr. has no doubts that he is the smartest because he’s a millennial.
Such a combination is the Bruwer family’s greatest asset and will surely continue to build their family farming business for generations to come.