Coming from a long lineage of agriworkers who tilled and toiled the land in Breede Valley region, Francois Cilliers always thought that he would walk the same path. Little did he know that his agricultural journey would be a tad different.
Cilliers was crowned as the 2019 Western Cape Prestige Agri Award winner during a gala ceremony held recently at the Nederberg Wine Estate in Paarl.
Cilliers, who is the oil master at Willow Creek Olive Estate in Nuy Valley, says that winning the award means a lot to him. “The Breede River Valley has never had a regional winner or a farm worker of the year. I’m happy that I was able to achieve that for them,” Cilliers said.
The Prestige Agri Awards, which recognises the hard work, commitment and dedication of the province’s agricultural workforce, saw a total of 1 393 agriworkers from across 16 regions in the Western Cape enter the competition this year.
Present at the event was Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, who handed Cilliers his award.
During his keynote speech Meyer emphasized that agriworkers play a significant role in the Western Cape economy. “Agriworkers are a key resource for this sector and I salute the hardworking men and women that contribute to a better agricultural landscape,” Meyer said.
As the overall winner, Cilliers’ prize is valued at approximately R100 000, which includes an overseas study tour. This master of olive oil believes that agriculture creates opportunities. In his acceptance speech he urged the agriworkers, farmers and industry professionals present to believe in what they want to be.
“With that, you can determine how you want your life to pan out. Always ask questions, look up to people that have potential and take ownership of your road to success,” Cilliers said on accepting the award.
According to general manager of Willow Creek, Philip Crous, what makes Cilliers a worthy winner is that for almost 20 years, he has consistently worked hard.
“Francois put in the long hours and there are many nights, while everybody is sleeping, he works longer hours to make the best Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the country,” Crous says.
Crous explained that the recognition proves to the agricultural sector that Willow Creek has a great team, producing not only quality oil, but quality people like Cilliers. “For the region, it means that people far and wide will recognise what hard work and commitment goes into farming.
For the employees at Willow Creek, it serves as inspiration that they can be recognised for the hard work they do, and that anything is possible if you believe and if you take ownership of your job and your life.”
Other regional winners
Richard September was announced as the Elgin, Grabouw, Vyeboom and Villiersdorp regional winner. September is the orchard development foreman at jackal river farm. which is leased by Fruitways. “I’m honoured by this recognition. With my three years agricultural experience I went up against men and women who has been in the industry for more than 21 years,” he says.
Cornel Paulse, an assistant farm manager at Glenwood Vineyards, won the Franschoek regional award. He says the acknowledgement assures him that he is being consistent with his standard of work. “I’ve won at this level three times already and it tells me that I’m on the right track,” he says.
The Berg Rivier regional winner was Jerid-Lee Warries. The 27-year-old assistant manager at Broodkraal Estate (Cemadar grape department), says the evening was very emotional for him. “I’ve always wanted to be a regional winner. This has truly been a great year for my agricultural journey,’ he says.
Martha Januarie, a 2015 award recipient was honoured again this year as the Hex Valley regional winner. Januarie is the union manager at Boplaas Family Vineyard’s. says she took the competition as an opportunity to evaluate herself. “It feels great to recognised on such a big scale,” she says.
Milton Zimri, a goods clerk at Lourensford Fruit Company, won the Stellenbosch regional award. It was the first time Zimri has won an award and he regards it as a highlight in his life. “I’m extremely proud of this achievement,” he says.
Vian van Schalkwyk, an administrative clerk and general worker at Begin Boerdery, won the Olifantsrivier regional award. “It was very surprising to me when I won. At some point I wondered if they hadn’t made a mistake,” Van Schalkwyk says.
Alan Simons, co-founder of Algina wholesale nursery, was announced as the Durbanville regional winner. Simons says the award is a milestone for him. “Farmworkers don’t get much acknowledgement and to be recognised on such a prestigious level really means a lot to me to.”
Junior winemaker at Bonnievale Wines, Christopher Filander, won the Langeberg regional award. “It’s my first time entering the competition and to win the regional award felt great,” he says.
Edward Saaiman, a general worker at Baakensrug, won the Central Karoo regional award. He says the award meant a lot to him because it was the fourth time that he entered the competition. “I didn’t think that I’d make it because these competitions are always tough.”
Willem Abrahams from Jaggerskraal farm won the Witzenberg regional award. “Winning the award was amazing but being promoted to junior farm manager as result of it was an even better feeling,” he says.
Some of the other regional winners announced were, Hendrik Koordom (Piket-Bo-Berg regional winner), Gerhard September (Swartland regional winner), Willem Treurnicht (Overberg regional winner), Johan Selisa (Garden Route regional winner), and Anver Britz (Klein Karoo regional winner).