The Durban Strawberry Festival at Cappeny Estates is just around the corner. Stuffed Feeling interviews Cappeny Estates owner Xolani Gumede, the man behind the fields of strawberry deliciousness. He uncovers what it’s like to be a first generation farmer, and gives great insight into starting the venture into growing your own crops. Xolani’s interview will definitely plant some thoughtful seeds into developing your ideas and starting out in the farming sector.
If you are wondering how it all began, Xolani makes it known that he didn’t wake up one day and decide to become a strawberry farmer. “Before Cappeny Estate, I was in property development and the building industry as a consultant. I saw Cappeny Estate as a property development opportunity and decided to continue using the land as it had been previously used – for farming,” explains Xolani. With a lot of research into the land and possible crops to grow, strawberries became the clear winner. “We researched what would be best farmed on the land considering the proximity to the airport, other land and also price and size of land. The list pointed to a few possible crops but as research continued and the list became more refined; strawberries came out on top,” Xolani discusses.
Xolani and his wife, Yoliswa, are first generation farmers. Xolani makes note that when getting into this business you need to pray very hard and also decide and define yourself; ask yourself whether you are going to be a farm owner, a farmer or like them both. “Being a first generation farmer, everything is happening for the first time. We can’t refer to former practices and systems used by previous generations. With farming you learn very quickly from your mistakes, especially as first generation farmers, all mistakes hammer you,” Xolani shares. Although this is their first run at farming, they have achieved so much already. The Oyster Box Hotel awarded Cappeny Estate as one of KZN’s Food Heroes. Cappeny Estate are also proud approved and certified (after the first time applying) with GLOBAL G.A.P, which allows them to export throughout the world.
Cappeny Estate is now getting ready for the launch of their first Strawberry Festival, taking place on the 26 September. Xolani shares, “The Strawberry Festival was an idea we had from the very beginning, and we not only want to make it an annual event but want it to grow into a 7 day event! We have not done other events as yet, but we will host other events such as catch & release fishing at our dam, strawberry themed birthday parties, school-tours to the farm and other agri-tourism related events.”
Xolani has definitely taken the right approach into this business-farming venture. Through extensive research, ideas can develop into so much more. For more inspiration and advice from Xolani, read on and see what answers he shares with us for the Quick Questions section.
- What is your favourite family home cooked meal and who cooks it the best?
My wife – everything she cooks is Very Good.
- Best cooking advice/food industry business advice you ever received and who gave it to you.
Cooking advice from my family: Concentrate on the flavour, if it happens to look good too that’s great.
Business advice: Never give up! If it was easy everyone would be doing it.
- What advice would you like to give to budding food entrepreneurs?
Research your vision. If you find positives, don’t listen to the pessimists – put your head down and go for it. Firstly though research thoroughly.
- What is your favourite meal to cook at home?
I braai and really enjoy it; especially on a Weber. I braai an entire meal on the Weber, from starters, mains and food for the whole family. Flavour is important and using good quality mediums makes a difference to the flavour. I find using woods to braai the meat helps add to the flavour.
- What is your favourite kitchen appliance?
- Who is your chef hero/ business hero?
Chef hero: Jamie Oliver. His food is not all fancy – it’s good food you can get stuck into.
Business hero: Dr Reuel Khoza (former Chair at Nedbank) and Brian Molefe (Eskoms acting CEO).
- Complete this sentence: Food is…
God’s gift to mankind.