When technology and science meet exciting things happen, especially in agriculture where food production is paramount. Energy is needed to drive this fusion forward and in the case of Wildeklawer, that energy comes from one man’s passion for what he does best.
That man is Louis de Kock, who along with his wife Cora brought a once struggling Wildeklawer to the pinnacle of success in commercial agriculture.
Wildeklawer is an example of how science, technology and passion gel together to create superior naturally grown products with ever increasing benefits that stretch beyond a country’s borders.
And this success has direct benefits for a great number of people in an area perceived to be challenging in the extreme for agricultural ventures. Wildeklawer employs a vast number of people in a province not known for large industries, bar mining.
The good news story of Wildeklawer has proved that sound thinking, total commitment and hard work, benefits man and the environment alike.
Some 30 years ago, Louis de Kock accompanied by his wife Cora, a qualified attorney, left a promising academic career in Agricultural Engineering to focus on commercial farming. The couple bought a struggling farm called Wildeklawer (Wild Clover) on the banks of the Vaal River near Barkly West in the Northern Cape Province.
Early on, irrigating their crops was done with two centre-pivot systems and irrigation lines moved by hand. Louis’ father helped them to first plough the lands after which they hired farm tractors from neighbours to supplement their own ageing fleet of three tractors.
After five years, Louis replanned the entire farm from scratch and replaced centre-pivot systems, pumps, pipes and added new pipe networks and pump-stations. Each possible area of the farm that has the potential to be productive underwent careful planning and leveling which culminated in sustainable soil preparation for future crops.
Laser leveling equipment was introduced to shape the land at optimal gradients, which ensured maximum water infiltration with ideal run-off conditions. Over time, 17 smaller farms have been organized into three main production units namely Blaauwbank, Romance and De Bron. The latter lies on the banks of the Orange River near Hopetown.
Louis de Kock has achieved what he set out to do, which is to produce superior quality vegetables and agricultural produce in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way with a consistency that creates a world-class benchmark.
This was much easier said than done but it has come about by creating a dedicated team of committed individuals who are experts in their fields. While mechanization ensures consistency, a large part of a local community has benefitted from the employment opportunities with subsequent ripple effects in a formerly disadvantaged community.
Wildeklawer’s mission remains the sustained production of vegetables and agricultural produce of superior quality in a way which adds value to employees’ lives, enhances people and looks after the land on which this production takes place.
Caring about people lies at the heart of Wildeklawer’s social investment projects where especially school-going children benefit through organized sport and sponsored tournaments.
The onion has a two-year life cycle. In the first year, it germinates and grows from a seedling through to bulb formation; at the bulb formation stage, a critical quality factor is the creation of what Louis calls “the onion’s natural packaging”, the layers of outer skin that protect the onion from its time in the ground all the way to the consumer. In the second year, “ provided it is left in the ground, of course“ the bulb generates more foliage, then flowers and seeds, and the cycle starts again.
Sourcing quality onion seed cultivars, in fact, is a very serious part of the business. Louis and Cora travel the world on an annual basis to find the very best seed cultivars. The United States, the Netherlands, Japan and Australia are prominent suppliers but Louis conducts considerable research and development on his own here at home to determine which seed cultivars are best suited to Wildeklawer’s growing conditions.
Very similar to carrots except for the shape and colour, beetroot is the taproot portion of the beet plant. Although classified as B. vulgaris with subspecies vulgaris Conditiva those in the know are of the opinion that there is nothing vulgar about the delicious beetroot taproot.
From the Middle Ages, beetroot has been used for medicinal purposes especially to treat illnesses of the digestive system and blood. Wine was even made from beetroot juice in 1800’s.
Like carrots, beetroot is harvested year-round. Because of the large 200-hectare production units, beetroot at Wildeklawer is planted using mechanized planters. Harvesting is by hand and a harvesting team will start at one end and harvest the larger beetroots first. Once that cycle is completed, they will return to their starting point and repeat the exercise. Each production unit can sustain around three harvesting cycles, so ensuring a constant supply to the market.
Maize and wheat is cultivated at Wildeklawer as the seasons dictate. Maize is harvested in autumn and winter and wheat in summer. Scientifically planned watering cycles coupled with fertigation, the adding of fertilizer to the irrigated water, ensures pest-free bulk crops.
The 20 hectare production units with their centre-pivot irrigation systems constantly deliver high yields of both these staple crops. Both white and yellow maize is cultivated.
What makes maize and wheat rotation special at Wildeklawer is that both these crops are essentially in crop rotation and in doing so, their respective cultivation sanitizes the soil.
Carrots are believed to be a domesticated form of the wild carrot, Daucus carota that was native to Europe and Southwestern Asia. Popular folklore has it that was first eaten in Persia (areas of which now belong to Iran and Afghanistan) although originally cultivated for its leaves and seeds. Only later did the eating of the taproot become popular and when selective breeding started, the taproot was enlarged, made more palatable by removing its woody texture and taste.
Carrots are known to be rich in carotene and although they contain large amounts of water, their health benefits are widely known and respected. They also make for very good salads and cooked meals.
Wildeklawer is fast making its mark as one of the leading producers of carrots in South Africa. As carrots and other vegetables are grown on large scale due to the advantage of scientific methods and sustainable water supply, carrots are produced year-round.
As with other crops, each production unit fed by its centre-pivot irrigation system, is planted with a different crop type each year and the previous crop type, is moved upwind of the former, so preventing plant diseases which may have developed to spread.
Although carrot harvesting is mostly done mechanically, it is supported by large teams of manual labour so ensuring that the crop comes in and sustaining employment for many in the area.
The potato as we know it, has certainly come a long way, originating from the Andes region in South America before making its way across the Atlantic ocean to Europe in the 16th century.
We believe its long journey has been well worth it as it has reached the pinnacle of production quality at Wildeklawer. Gone are the days of simply calling it a spud as it joins the likes of wheat, maize, rice and sugar as some of the most important basic food groups in the world.
At Wildeklawer we’ve carefully selected four potato cultivars namely Sifra, Lanorma, Mondial and Fabula. Seed potatoes, sourced from seed growers in the Free State, are kept in cold storage until they are mechanically planted between November and January. Five-year crop rotation cycles provide soil that is ready and full of nutrients and our centre-pivot irrigation system ensures optimal moisture at the desired time in the growth cycle, again highlighting the importance of effective science in food production.
Once mechanically harvested between March and August each year, our potatoes are carefully washed, sorted and packed by hand, ensuring that the potato skin stays unmarked and intact. Wildeklawer potatoes are sought after on fresh produce markets, in supermarket groups and in food processing. Our potatoes are great for boiling, frying, French fries and crisps.
The quality of our potato production was recognized back in 2005 when Louis de Kock and his Wildeklawer team were lauded as “Potato Producer of the Year”. Since then we’ve built on that recognition and stay committed to producing the best potatoes in Africa, if not the world.
The words of the former National Minister of Sport Mr. Fikile Mbalula, rang true when speaking during the return of the 2012 South African Olympic team. He said: “ We need to establish a production house for sport and that production house starts at school level.”
In the same year 2012, Hoërskool Vaalrivier in Barkly West, approached Wildeklawer for assistance with sports development at the school. Louis and Cora de Kock, owners of Wildeklawer supported the idea but put up a condition that all the schools in Barkly West would benefit from such an initiative.
When considering that Barkly West has a population of close to 40 000 inhabitants but with six schools that lack proper sporting facilities, coaches and equipment, it was an idea that was immediately enthusiastically supported.
A planning meeting led to all the school principals and the Dikgatlong Local Municipality buying into the idea of a sports academy. The sports academy would strive to develop sport and further expose talented learners to compete against traditional stronger sporting schools.
Development of specific sports and the subsequent personal growth of the participating learners from all ethnic groups in the Barkly West community formed the mission of what would be known as the Wildeklawer School Sports Academy (WSSA).
As its vision and values, the WSSA holds up that which is contained in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Other values that are taught, encouraged and rewarded are honesty and integrity, professionalism and commitment, morality and mutual respect, loyalty, consistency and transparency.
Clear goals were set namely to offer opportunities to sportsmen and women to participate in a wide range of sporting events and to empower coaches and team managers to qualify and train with the best possible methods. Spectators have been encouraged to attend local matches where teams participate actively. Coordinated facilities, equipment, team uniforms and management thereof form the backbone of the WSSA.
Although many different sports were mooted at the launch of the initiative it has come down to three main sporting codes being actively pursued namely soccer, rugby and netball. Overseeing the initiative is a full-time sports coach Mr. Danie Smith who was appointed in 2013
Now in its fifth year, the success of the WSSA is evident for all to see. In 2013, a soccer tournament was held where many strong soccer-playing schools in the district attended. By 2015, three soccer teams were actively involved in Northern Cape leagues and doing well.
There has been remarkable growth in netball which had started from a reasonably strong base in 2013 when the WSSA under-19 team won the league and represented the Northern Cape Development Schools at the South African Schools championships, attaining a credible fourth place.
By 2015 there were no fewer that eight teams from under-14 to under-19 with further representation at provincial level.
Rugby at WSSA had distinguished itself in both the 15-man as the 7-man codes. 2013 saw the return of this first under-19 team in some 13 years for the 15-man code. In Sevens rugby the WSSA under-14 team won their age group in the Abass Sevens tournament that year at their first outing.
By 2015, WSSA boasted four teams in the 15-man code and its under-16’s won both the 15-man and Sevens leagues. Two WSSA players went on to represent Griquas in the under-15 and under-19 teams respectively.
The establishment and success of the WSSA can be seen as having the same ethos and vision as that of Wildeklawer. Two people’s love for and commitment to the well-being of their fellow man, their immediate community and above all, the future of its future citizens, the children.
The Wildeklawer schools rugby-and netball tournament was hosted for the first time in 2009 after discussions with members of the President Council of SA Rugby, Mr Hoskins, Alexander, Stofberg and Prinsloo. The first tournament was hosted at Paarl Gymnasium from 24 April 2009 with 12 top graded rugby schools and two invitation teams. After 2009 the tournament was hosted in Pretoria, Kimberley (2011 and 2012), Maritzburg College in 2013 and 2014 and 2015 at Diamantveld in Kimberley. Kimberley will again host the 2023 prestigious tournament. The tournament has grown, being the biggest schools rugby and netball tournament in South Africa if not in the World.
For more information regarding any of our Wildeklawer fresh produce, contact us by any of the following ways: