A nursery that started out as a side hustle to earn an extra income turned into a great success story for Jacqueline “Jacky” Goliath. Hailed as one of Mzansi’s most influential women, she continues plowing forward to make space for women farmers.
Goliath and her colleague and business partner, Elton Jefthas, started De Fynne Nursery in the Westen Cape with 1 000 fynbos plants 18 years ago. What started out in a backyard has grown to supply major stores and diversified to produce a wide range of plants and products.
Although she had never thought about a career in agriculture, Goliath says she always knew she wanted to work outside and be surrounded by nature. “It was never going to be agriculture or whatever, I just wanted to work outside. With my upbringing and how those days in the communities, people would have their own vegetable gardens. So, I would play with my dad and obviously work. I think how he did the vegetable gardens, that’s where my love for what I do today actually comes from.”
Goliath grew up as the youngest of three daughters in Abbotsdale, Malmesbury. She says from a young age her parents, Yvonne and Jacobus, taught her and her two older sisters how to work for what they wanted. “We had to do everything because there weren’t any boys, so my father made us do everything from changing the tyres of the car, braaiing and even putting up a fire. Now we are lucky because we can do all of those things. But those years, obviously, we felt very unlucky for females to do all that stuff.”
The greatest lesson that she takes away from her parents is to persevere against all odds. Adding that she also inherited her parents’ calm and peaceful demeanour. Goliath says she remembers her childhood as rural with gravel roads, outside toilets and candle light.
In 1991 she matriculated from Schoonspruit Secondary School and went on to do her national diploma in horticulture at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. She obtained her diploma in 1995. The following year Goliath completed her degree in horticulture at the University of South Africa.
“Afterwards I worked at a small nursery in Paarl in retail, which was between 1996 and 1997. Then I moved from there to Microprop, which is a 24-hectare farm that I managed. And then I went to work at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) from 1998 to 2000.”
When Goliath left the ARC, she went on to work as a horticulturalist at a non-profit organisation called Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (ASNAPP). The goal of this organisation is to help develop African agribusinesses grow. It is here at ASNAPP where Goliath and Jefthas’ paths crossed again after also working together at the ARC.
“We were working for an NGO and as you know with NGOs there’s not always sustainable funding. And we just thought that we needed to start something on the side, so that we can just have another income. We also worked together at the ARC for years, where we actually learnt how to grow and how to work with fynbos.”
In 2001, Goliath and Jefthas decided to give their idea a kickstart.
“We started in his backyard with one thousand plants, starting to propagate and grow it. Then we actually saw people were becoming more water-conscious and fynbos is actually a water-wise plant. And then it just grew from there because the market was there.”
As the owners of De Fynne Nursery in Paarl, Goliath and Jefthas’ business supplies a few major retail stores across South Africa with their plants. As the business grew, they also started growing other types of plants. This includes containerised plants of ornamental, fynbos, indigenous and agricultural crops.
Goliath’s dedication and hard work has not gone unseen. She was honoured with the 2015 Toyota New Harvest of the Year award and named as the most influential woman in 2014 by CEO Magazine.
Getting her hands dirty isn’t the only thing that Goliath can do. She did ballroom dancing many years ago. And besides that, she also has a great eye for photography. “I take weird pictures that come out very nicely.”
Just as much as her passion for what she does gives Goliath an adrenaline rush, she confessed her love for big trucks. “Something that people don’t know about me is that I like big trucks. I am crazy about the sound of the air breaks of a truck. It makes me excited.”
With all the challenges that Goliath has faced in this male dominated industry, she refuses to sit back. Instead she perseveres and will not cease to pave the way forward for other female farmers to come.