By Maryatta Wegerif

Visiting Johan Terblanche’s Farm in the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) is like landing in a huge vegetable basket. There’s food everywhere. At 7am it’s just beginning to get light, but a parking place is already hard to find. Trucks loaded with farm workers are on their way back to the nearby informal settlements where the workers live, while vendors, shop owners and retailers are getting their supply from the farm market.

There are huge bags of carrots, pallets of cabbages, potatoes and broccoli, and big containers full of beetroot and spinach. There are herbs, leeks, lettuces and celery wherever you look. People are collecting, buying, loading and unloading vegetables. Terblanche is holding a phone to his ear and waving instructions with his free hand.

“My passion is farming,” says Terblanche. “And this is where I want to farm. My father farmed here before me”. He has been farming here since 1991 with his son Stiaan. They farm more than 300 hectares, producing tons of vegetables, most of which he sells to informal traders and small shops, the rest to local supermarkets including Food Lovers, Pick ‘n Pay and Shoprite.

Terblanche says some days he has 35 tonnes of carrots of which about seven are sold to informal settlements at very affordable prices.

He employs 400 workers and they get vegetables to take home. “Every day and especially on Mondays people come here looking for work. I try to help. They all have families,” he says.

The prices of electricity, seeds and equipment are always rising and making business very difficult, “but what is really killing me is the crime!” Terblanche says.

In just one week, criminals cut his fences eight times to steal vegetables. “Why don’t they ask me simply for food? No farmer will not give to someone who is hungry. The vegetables they steal are worth R200 but the fences cost me a few thousand,” he says.

Terblanche says he could live with such petty crime, but it’s the stealing of his pumps, irrigation systems, electricity and equipment that could drive him to bankruptcy.

Two nights before he talked to GroundUp, criminals broke into his office. “Unfortunately the police can’t do anything; and they don’t. They are busy in Hanover Park or not interested. It takes up to a day before they even arrive here. And although one can see the faces clearly on camera, the thieves never get caught.”

Crime costs him dearly. “I haven’t had a salary in the last 12 years. I am living off my savings,” he says.

Eighty charities get free vegetables from the Terblanche farm. Donations are made to schools, kitchens and churches for free. “The government should protect this land and the people working on it. Instead everything is done to destroy this area,” he says.

The huge aquifer under the PHA supplies the farmers with water to grow the vegetables. “To grow vegetables I need a lot of water. Thanks to the aquifer this is possible even in a drought … One could build houses here and pave the aquifer over. The houses could have beautiful kitchens with marble surfaces. But the cupboards would be empty; and no water would come out of the taps. It would make a few people very rich!” Terblanche says.

Read the entire story here.

About The Author

Digital Managing Editor

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.