Earlier this year, the European Union announced that rooibos will be registered as a protected product. The designation shone a fresh light on the rooibos tea sector. To give us more insight into rooibos farming, tea farmer Whernit Dirks joined the Farmer’s Inside Track podcast this week.
Dirks, a tea farmer in the Piketberg area in the Western Cape, says that the key ingredient to farming rooibos tea successfully, is a good, sandy soil.
“We purchased this farm in 2012 or 2013, so I had this challenge on the farm with the sandy soil. I was trying to get something to farm in this area that is really profitable per hectare because grain was not doing [well] at that stage [due to] the droughts. So, I started with rooibos tea. The plants were growing really well in 2018,” he says.
Rooibos tea needs to anchor deep into the soil to flourish, says Dirks. This makes the correct preparation of the soil incredibly important. “We rip deep because we want the roots to have an open gap to grow and go deep into the sand. After you plant it, it must start and spread roots deep into the soil.”
For new farmers interested in going into the tea business, he says that a good partnership is extremely important. “Find yourself a good partner if you can’t do it on your own. But you have to trust him, and he has to trust you. This is the first thing to start with. If you can’t [agree with] each other, just leave it, but if you feel like you can work with [the person], it’s great.”
For Dirks, the future lies in agri-processing, particularly for black farmers like himself.
“In the future, I want to go into processing with rooibos someday. And that’s the way to go for our black farmers. If we can get into the processing thing, then we can start making money.
“So, new farmers, young farmers that want to go into rooibos tea, just look at your soil. If you have land that is just lying there, [it is] sandy soil, and you can’t plant it, get yourself a good partner to plant it. If you can plant it yourself, plant it yourself. But don’t waste the land.”
Other farmer podcast highlights:
The best agriculture news podcast on the planet also features other highlights for the agricultural sector this week:
- Unpacking the role of women: Jobs Fund boss Najwah Allie-Edries joins us to talk about the important role women play in the shaping of society.
- Animal nutrition: Voermol’s Francois van de Vyver takes us through hassle-free options to overwinter animals.
- Farmer development: FarmSol boss Aron Kole shares how new farmers can find effective partnerships through the supply chain.
- Book of the week: Our book of the week is Lift as you rise: Speeches and Thoughts on Leadership by South African businessman Bonang Mohale.
- Farmer’s Tip of the Week: Our farmer tip this week comes from Gugulethu Mahlangu, a Mpumalanga vegetable farmer.
- Soil Sistas: This week’s #SoilSista, powered by Food for Mzansi and Corteva AgriScience, is Gauteng crop farmer Mandisa Bell. The farmer is working hard to make farming dreams a reality.
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