In Blog

It was Gino’s idea that we meet a neighbouring commercial farmer or two; see what they had to say about developments at Rustler’s Valley. We had met Ray Strydom briefly the day before and so I jumped at the second name offered – Christian Findlay.

The road leading past EarthRise Mountain Lodge to Franshoek, Christian Findlay’s farm.

Findlay agreed on the phone to meet us. It was short notice and so we were grateful. Jackie dropped us off at Franshoek, and we were shown to the house. We had just sat down on the veranda when he was called away, but not before he invited us to make ourselves tea or coffee in the kitchen, something we found a remarkable show of trust (there was no-one else in the house at the time).

Once he had returned, Findlay filled us in on his farming operation. He had phased out cattle and gone for sheep, but was now bringing some weaners back.  Livestock belong on pastures! He is sold on Sericea Lespedeza (see the “Fodder crops” chapter and earlier post) and bales of it can be seen on his lands.

We find that his sense of fair play extends to jackal. People wanted to come hunt jackal in his mountains and he told them to “leave my jackal alone”, he recounts. Like neighbour Ray Strydom, Findlay is sold on Allan Savory’s philosophy (see earlier post). Implementing the wagon-wheel system means no predator problems. He also has two Anatolian dogs which, having grown up with the sheep, look after them. He speaks of finding a dead mongoose near where he keeps poultry, and credits the Anatolians for this.

The Anatolians double up as guard dogs, the only obvious security measure around the house. Findlay believes in treating the farm community fairly, he says. Without their goodwill he is “a sitting duck”. His polo association has for years put money towards the staff children’s education which has included daily transport for them to attend school in town, and we later find a write up about this. Horse polo has featured prominently as a sport that includes and develops farm workers in the Ficksburg district (see www.poloafrica.com and http://poloschool.co.za).
What does he think of developments at Rustler’s? His response is immediate. At a time when the planet is taking a beating, Jay Naidoo and his team are doing “a fantastic job”.

Christian Findlay on his veranda

He is puzzled that they did not consult neighbouring farmers about local conditions or see if there was something to learn from the people who were already farming in the area. What pointers would he have given, I ask?

Soil is critical, and the soils on the farm will require attention sooner rather than later. Implementing Savory-linked measures will do wonders for the farm, he says. He speaks more broadly, nationally: government should apply these measures to failed farms; this would soon put farmers back on the (workable) land. The slangbos [an invader plant, Seriphium plumosum, destroying grazing areas] will need attention. He would also locate vegetable operations closer to the village, to include any lesser abled people.

Evidence from other farmers in the area show that one can make it on smaller operations, and he names some of these. When what you’re paying for inputs is relatively low it is easier to keep a track on things and to measure your success. You don’t have to be “a big farmer” to make it.

Christian praises the harvest festival, the generosity of giving everyone some of the produce, including the neighbouring farmers. This scored points, he says, and will be remembered when the farm needs help. “What was the tonnage? I don’t know and that is not the point”. There are risks and challenges specific to the eastern Free State and the Naledi co-op has made its mark.

We thank him for his time. The sun has not set yet and rather than call Jackie for the offered lift we decide to use the opportunity to take in the scenery once more and to walk back to the Lodge. 

Share this article

Recent Posts
0

Start typing and press Enter to search