1. What brought you to where you are today – a woman in agriculture?

Agriculture wasn’t my field of study at university. In fact, I started off in the corporate world where I worked across African countries on programmes and strategy.  A few years ago my husband and I bought a beautiful derelict farm in Wellington, Western Cape and I could not wait to get my hands in the soil. I found that agriculture is much like many other fields – one has to be eager to learn, seek advice from trusted knowledge experts and work hard to succeed. One thing that is different though, is having the incredible privilege to wake up every morning being close to nature and God – I am really living my dream.


2. Are there unique challenges as a woman in the olive growing and olive oil making business?

As a newcomer to the industry, I have come to face many challenges, but nothing that cannot be overcome by hard work, patience and finding the right mentors. I was incredibly lucky to meet other amazing South African women in olive growing and oil making, and with their help and honest advice, I learnt the ropes.

The generic challenges faced are mostly the time it takes to business profitability; finding markets for my product (Haaskraal produces both oil and table olives), and controlling costs along the way.

Specific challenges are really knowing everything about everything, so that you can take care of every aspect of your olives and business properly.  I have found that as a growing business, it is vital to find quality suppliers along the way – suppliers that care about your growth journey and who can become long term partners.


3. What are the hard skills you need to make it work?

Knowing and really understanding the olive life cycle as both oil and table olive specialist – from soil preparation, planting, to care maintenance (herbicide, pesticide and feeds), irrigation, harvesting, processing and selling.

Ensuring the farm and its workers are fully productive on the various jobs required from day to day as well as planning ahead to monthly and annually – for example, we are now already working on preparing to plant next year’s new olive orchard.

One needs to have a deep knowledge across various skills, from book keeping, to labour law, marketing, accounting, project management, operational processing, farm management and, naturally, strategy.


4. What are the soft skills you need to make it work?

Interpersonal skills to not only manage people on the farm in ensuring a happy workplace from a cultural perspective, but also  engaging with knowledge experts to constantly further one’s knowledge and skills. Building relationships are key in ensuring a successful outcome and future for everyone contributing to Haaskraal farm’s success.


5. What has been a highlight in your career in the olive industry thus far?

As a new EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) farmer in the market, launching our first fully produced Directors Reserve and Estate Premium oils under the Haaskraal Label, naturally with SA Olive’s accreditation, and selling it successfully in the market.


6. Why do you love what you do?

Two things stand out – being close to nature every day and meeting amazing people along my journey. Haaskraal farm lives the principles of sustainable farming, seeing how the soil biology transforms warms one’s heart.


7. What does the future hold – for you, your business, and the country?

I love our country and am excited to see our farm grow from strength to strength.  We are going to have much accelerated growth over the next few years, as new oil and table olive trees start becoming fully productive.

I believe there will be a continued growing need for quality EVOO, both in South Africa and world-wide, especially as consumers start to become more informed on the health benefits and amazing taste of quality EVOO, making it their household choice.


8. Do you have a funny story about your time in the olive business?

Yes, I do. I coughed on intense EVOO during my first olive oil tasting lesson, and I was the only one. I felt so embarrassed, but happy to report that I learned so much since then and recently felt like a pro at the last SA Olive EVOO tasting course that I attended … I guess we all have to start somewhere.


9. What does your support structure look like?

I am incredibly blessed to have the most amazing husband in the world, great industry advisors and happy farm workers – with faith as my guiding light.