Most retired couples wish to take a well-deserved break after decades of hard work. For some, this means international travel. For others, such as Balami Govender and her husband Krish Naidu, this means continuing the family tradition of farming in KwaZulu-Natal’s La Mercy.
Govender and Naidu produce high-quality crops such as coriander, mint, watercress, herbs, and spinach and have been regular suppliers of the Shoprite Group for more than three decades.
However, it’s their specialisation in Cherry Belle radishes that has garnered the two the most attention. Naidu shares that the choice to farm these radishes, a common addition to a traditional French salad, was a logical one.
“Cherry Belle radishes grow throughout the year, and the weather and soil structure on the farm is very conducive for its growth. It has quick returns from seed to harvest,” says Naidu.
Meeting strict requirements
Govender inherited the farm from her parents, who were among the first successful farmers in the region. The pair have continued working the land well into their late 60s and early 70s.
Although the pair has been supplying Shoprite for the past 30 years, penetrating the Shoprite market has not always been a walk in the park.
“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,” Naidu says.
According to the farmer, this has further enhanced their business.
“First grade produce will produce first class sales. My experience tells me that once the products are of good quality, Shoprite will sell more – which has always been the case. I solely supply Shoprite, and business with Shoprite has been great and this allows me to expand my farming and create more employment,” says Naidu.
As with most farming it is seldom easy and straightforward to regularly supply high quality produce to a leading supermarket chain; central to their success is the “tremendous relationship” they have built with Shoprite over the years.
Naidu and Govender continue to work hands-on at one of the region’s most successful small scale vegetable farms, describing the supermarket group as a “pillar of strength for the business”.