Life skills and support all in a day’s work at Greyton apple and pear farm

Kootjie Viljoen with Masixole Mbolo, Duwie Viljoen and Mbulelo Mgxa of the Oewerzicht Boerdery. Mr Mbolo and Mr Mgxa are in the Oewerzicht Boerdery soccer team.

Just nine kilometres outside of the picturesque village of Greyton is Kootjie and Isa Viljoen’s farm, Oewerzicht. There, together with daughter Catherien and the twins Danielle and Phillip, they grow apples and pears, as well as farm with wheat and livestock. Oewerzicht is also known for its herd of rhebok, birds such as blue cranes, secretary birds, and large flocks of guinea fowl and accommodation and wedding venue.

What makes this idyllic setting even more special is the commitment the owners have to growing and developing the potential of their most valued resource: their people. “We’re a Christian farm and start each day with prayer”, Kootjie Viljoen says, “and even though we have an open-door policy when it comes to dealing with our family of staff, we also know that there are some things that one doesn’t want to talk to your employer about.”

Mr Viljoen brings the benefit of a full-time social worker, Carmenita Philander, to his Oewerzicht team. “At first there were maybe one or two cases but as staff have developed their trust in her the number of people seeking her help has grown. Although most of the staff who work at Oewerzicht live in the nearby village of Genadendal, the farm provides transport. “Our soccer team includes Masixole Mbolo and Mbulelo Mgxa who are keen players who have a match each weekend and we support them with transport, kit and a place to practice.”

According to Mr Viljoen, developing staff potential is so important that they regularly hold training for all staff. Not only technical training which is offered, but also life skills training which is provided by Sandra van der Merwe. “Personal growth starts by taking responsibility for your own happiness, growth, problems and relationships and our programmes help facilitate this,” Ms Van der Merwe says, explaining that one can learn any new skill if the individual wants to, “and as a result of a lack of knowledge, people perish who do not know any better so it is my privilege to teach them how to make good choices concerning their work, home, community which leads to good character.”

“People are normally hired for their skills and fired on character issues,” she says. “Character issues such as trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and good citizenship.

“To produce good fruit trees requires technical skills, and it all starts with the seed, which is the life skills, in other words, the character issues as mentioned above. And happy people produce happy trees and that leads to higher productivity in the workplace and harmony in the home.”