From general worker to farm manager
Text: Elise-Marie Steenkamp
Almost 23 years ago Willem Booise fell in as a general agricultural worker on the farm Bergendal on the Paleisheuwel Road near Citrusdal. At the time, it was just another job.
But soon, Booise realised that he found his true calling. The fresh open air, working the soil, learning about pests and diseases…every day became a blessing and Booise blossomed.
Today he is the go-to-person at Bergendal. As Production Manager, he has more than 300 permanent and seasonal workers to manage as well as a whole range of other responsibilities, including the management of 138 orchard hectares and he oversees the orchard monitoring, irrigation, and fertilization of all the production units.
“There is no time to rest here, we harvest 12 months of the year,” says Booise. The enterprising farming entity comprises three farms delivering stone fruit, rooibos tea, wine grapes, and citrus – with a dried fruit and rooibos factory on the premises as well. The well-known Carmien rooibos tea brand is produced on Bergendal.
In recognition of the 49-year old Booise’s success, he received the deciduous fruit industry’s Specialist Agricultural Worker of the Year merit award for his exceptional agricultural knowledge and leadership skills. Managing more than 300 agricultural workers and their team-leaders to ensure that quality work is delivered, is no easy task. Especially since many workers are only seasonally employed. Booise realised that communicating clearly with the workers, in their own language, was paramount to help ensure success. He undertook the learning of isiXhosa to make sure that everyone was on the page. And over the years, he has completed several training courses to improve his agricultural skills.
Booise is also an active community leader and serves as a trustee of the Bergendal Employee Trust. According to Potgieter van Zyl from Bergendal, Booise’s years of experience, dedicated interest and attention to fine detail are worth his weight in gold. Booise says mentoring young people on the farm is an important part of his work. “I try to teach them to ask when they don’t know something and to grab every opportunity that is given to them. Uplifting people is my calling.”
Apart from working with people, Booise’s orchard passion lies in the monitoring of pests and diseases. “I find the crop protection part of my work fascinating. It is a 24/7 commitment. Pests and diseases can literally wreak havoc almost overnight. You have to monitor carefully and regularly.”
Booise believes the recipe for success is starting every day with the Bible and prayer. “At 7:15 we fall in together with scriptures and prayer, it sets everyone up with right intention for the day’s work.”
Willem Booise produksiebestuurder van Bergendal naby Citrusdal het die Spesialislandbouwerker van die Jaar-merietetoekenning ontvang vir uitsonderlike landboukennis en leierskap. Booise wat al 23 jaar op Bergendal werk het as ‘n algemene werker begin. Vandag is hy in beheer van al die boordmonitering en is ook verantwoordelik vir die bemesting en besproeiing van 138 ha produksie-eenhede. Hy bestuur ook meer as 300 landbouwerkers en sien toe dat kwaliteitwerk gelewer word en dat spanleiers opdragte reg uitvoer. Deur die jare het Booise verskeie opleidingskursusse voltooi om sy vaardighede te verbeter. Hy het ondermeer ’n isiXhosa-kursus geneem om beter met ander werkers te kommunikeer. Booise is ook ‘n aktiewe gemeenskapsleier en dien ondermeer as trustee op die Bergendal Werknemerstrust. Volgens Potgieter van Zyl, van Bergendal, is Booise se jare ervaring, toegewyde belangstelling en aandag aan die fyner besonderhede sy gewig in goud werd.