Planting for the future

FARMER De-Neasha Topkin shows off the growing vegetables on her farm. Photo: Larry Crisp
FARMER De-Neasha Topkin shows off the growing vegetables on her farm. Photo: Larry Crisp

IN July 2014, De-Neasha Topkin and her family decided to sell their property in Bloemfontein and to trade in the comfort, city lights, tarred roads and fast food for gravel roads, star light, silent nights and farming.

This was after De-Neasha, her husband, Albe, and two sons, Ian and Ivan, unanimously decided that the way to make a living for themselves was to go into farming.

They applied for prime farming ground at Winkelhaak near Oppermansgronde, in the region of Jacobsdal and Koffiefontein.

They then made the big move. The move was well thought out as De-Neasha grew up on a farm and was confident that the farm would thrive as she had prior knowledge, skills and experience to guide her.

They then established La Familia Farming and Projects, situated on a farm near Oppermansgronde.

When visiting the family, one has to travel to Jacobsdal on tarred road and then hit a gravel road for 30 km, where the question of are we there yet, will come to mind.

“We first started to plant potato skins in 2015 to provide potatoes for household use. After the potatoes started growing, we moved to planting cucumber, pumpkin, chillies, beetroot, carrots and watermelons,” said De-Neasha.

The Topkin family chose plants that do not need too much water to grow. They have also planted herbs on a small scale, including parsley, mint and basil.

They faced problems when it came to watering as they used flood irrigation. This resulted in the dam being emptied in one fell swoop. The water use was high and De-Neasha, knowing what the situation of water in the country was, immediately started thinking of ways in which she could save this precious resource.

“In January we decided to try and save on water use. We bought a generator, swimming pool pump and some grade two waterpipes and sprayers and strategically placed them around the garden.

“After the installation we saw a drastic drop in water use from a full dam to only one-ninth of the dam being used,” she said excitedly.

They then aimed to further lessen the water use and tried and increase production. The Topkins therefore started watering from 19:00 when the temperatures were cooler and the wind calm. This method further improved their water usage.

In time they were able to extend the area where they planted vegetables extensively.

“Currently we are practising rotational farming. We rotate the planting of crops, thus sparing the ground and its nutrients.

“In our first harvest our expectations were exceeded, especially with the watermelons, which we had to sell due to the huge production, along with carrots, beetroot, pumpkin and cucumber,” De-Neasha said.

Together with the Department of Agriculture they also plan to farm ostriches in the near future.

De-Neasha belongs to the South African Women Entrepreneurial Network (Sawen), where she is exposed to various other organisations which invest in women who run and are involved in business.

She has won the 2015 CEO Global Award in the agricultural sector, the Most Influential Women in Business South Africa, the Inkanyezi Award and the Individual Women in Business Award during a wellness day held in Koffiefontein.

She was also announced as the Xhariep district winner: female subsistence farmer by the Department of Agriculture.

With De-Neasha’s involvement in Sawen she aims to assist women in the surrounding areas with their farming projects to be successful and make a difference.

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