Christel Fortuin is a star in the making.
Now that the rains have returned to the Boland, the farm road leading to the office at Lakeview Farm is muddy and the previously scorched and thirsty earth is now ready for the next crop of fruit. The nearby Theewaterskloof Dam, so depleted just a few months ago, is more than 56% full.
Lakeview, a 100% BEE-owned farm is among the Villiersdorp farms that supply apples and pears to Two-a-Day in Grabouw. Along with the permanent workers of Waterval, Green Oaks, Skoongesig, Monte Vista, Willem Thonie and Westfahlen these farm workers own 100% of the shares at Lakeview, a farm owned and managed by The Lakeview Farm Worker’s Trust with Two-a-Day as the strategic partner of the farming business. Importantly, the farm has a board of directors that comprise some of the beneficiaries, Two-a-Day representatives and commercial farmers. The permanent workers of the farm also have shares in Ithemba Elitsha (Pty) Ltd – Corner Farm.
With her soft voice Christel Fortuin is an unlikely candidate for an Administration Clerk on the farm until you get to know her. In just a few moments of conversation you too will know you are dealing with someone who will continue to go far – a star in the making.
“I was working at my desk one day when a management team from Two-a-Day was meeting with the farm manager Michael Jaarson. I was introduced to Two-a-Day’s managing director Mr Attie van Zyl. Then he said: ‘Oh, so you are Christel. I only hear good things about you from the team at head office.’ I was amazed as I had no idea that he even knew my name,” she smiles while retelling this story.
Fortuin is born and bred in this apple and pear growing valley. “I went to Kosie de Wet Primary school and then completed matriculation at Villiersdorp Secondary. My parents, Pieter and Magdalena Fortuin have been on this farm since 1991. After school I went to study further at Boland College and then had a few jobs, mainly working in customer service in shops, before deciding I wanted to work on the farm on which I grew up.” Fortuin says that she works on accounts, wages, filing and HR-related tasks and very closely with her colleague Hannelien Briekwa who does admin for Elandsrivier farm. “I enjoy being here on the farm”, Fortuin says, “it is close to my family and my daughter Quinique. It is also wonderfully quiet and peaceful.”
Lakeview, like all farms that have their fruit packed and stored by Two-a-Day, has its apples and pears marketed through Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing.
As the largest exporter of South African apples and pears, Tru-Cape, which is owned by the growers of Two-a-Day and Ceres Fruit Growers and procures fruit from other growers in areas such as the Langkloof, is indirectly responsible through the successful sale of South African apples and pears for the livelihoods of more than 24,600 people in the Elgin, Grabouw, Vyeboom and Villiersdorp valleys.
Farm manager, Michael Jaarson says: “Knowing that we have a star such as Christel Fortuin taking care of the admin, HR and the finance aspects of the farm means that we can focus on growing the best apples and pears which will earn the highest prices in the market. I must credit Two-a-Day for recognising early on that Christel, among many others, would benefit from exposure to high-level training and skills.”
Tru-Cape’s managing director, Roelf Pienaar says that the company is always glad to hear positive stories about farms that grow Tru-Cape fruit but a story such as this one about how a child of farm workers has developed and flourished and is living their potential is a remarkable one.