13. Staff and Volunteers

Staff at Fynbos have always played an important role in the running of the farm. We employ six or seven permanent farm workers (three or four men and three women), as well as an office manager. The women take care of laundry and cleaning, setting up the guest houses, and providing staff at our events. The men work with the vineyards, look after the farm animals, and take care of the roads and grounds. They also set up venues and man the bar at weddings and parties. From time to time, we have employed people to help with maintenance, but never for long periods.

Until relatively recently, the staff situation has been quite problematic. In the early days, once almost all staff abandoned us following our stopping the dop system, we relied on Hannes Goliath and Antjie Warries, while the rest of our staff came and went. A few years later, Antjie and Hannes left the farm, and for the next two decades, we had a rapid turnover of local and Zimbabwean workers.

Our first office manager, Pat Barton, worked part time for a few years. She was followed by Gail Honeyball Nockles (now sadly deceased), who worked full time, loved our animals, and brought irreverence and humour to the farm. During this time, Romayne Midgely looked after our VAT, and when Gail left, she took over the role of office manager. Only Romayne does far more than simply office management, taking on more of a general manager role. She is also an animal lover, running a donkey and horse sanctuary from her home, and she has brought us many of our donkeys and our horse Starz, as well as our dogs Cherry and Blue.

In addition to permanent workers, we have, over the years, received part time help from many people: Loni Drager, now also sadly deceased (for events), Lisa du Plooy (for design work and events) Marna and Rencia (for catering), Gaen (for catering) and Johann Human, who, with a magic touch, created our website, designs our labels and looks after our social media. Recently, Mandy Newman has catered for workshops for us. For big events, we have brought in various young people to help us, and we employ Lucy, Priscilla’s daughter, for ironing help.

For some time now, we have had an excellent team, and as a result, the farm runs like clockwork. Central to the team have been Basil Majaja, who recently died at the age of seventy, and the couple Priscilla Chigwedere and Charles Gondo. Priscilla is our housekeeper, runs the laundry, leads the women, Rowena and Vinnie, and, during events, does front of house. Charlie leads the men, Tendai and Monet, and runs the bar at events.


Throughout our time on the farm, we have had volunteers come and help us – usually for a month or two. We feed and house them in return for seven hours of work per day during the week.. They join the farm activities and do whatever needs doing, including picking olives and lemons, gardening, painting, and, of course, wine making. Our preference, after some years of experience, has been for German, Dutch, or Swiss volunteers, who have a better work ethic than Americans and South Africans.

Jan, our first volunteer, was from the former East Germany. He worked like a demon from Tuesday until Friday, drank through the weekend, and took Monday off to sober up. We got to be quite fond of Jan despite his habits, and were touched when, years later, he phoned from an airport in Sweden to tell us he was doing well, had a girlfriend, and had given up drinking.

Following Jan, there were a number of mostly hard working and personable volunteers. Amongst them was the broody Dutch couple who bottle fed our hanslammetjies, and Klaus, a very serious German man who worked like a Trojan sanding and varnishing all the wood in the pavilion. During olive picking, a German lass arrived with a huge suitcase of clothes and repeatedly skived off work to do her nails. She soon gravitated to Malmesbury where she found a young man with whom she disappeared. There was Kay who stayed for many months and an Austrian couple who exchanged barely a word with us, but who pasted a long lurid pornographic poem on our fridge when they left, and there was Simon, a very suave young Frenchman who wanted a future in the French hotel industry.

Harvest time we usually have between four and six volunteers and this is lots of fun. Volunteers get down and dirty in the cellar and then each have the task of cooking dinner one night, preferably from their land of origin. Mealtimes are noisy and joyful and we get to eat some delicious food.

But of all volunteers there were a few that came to play a special role in the farm, and find a special place in our hearts. Andy and Becky from the U.K. arrived just before harvest, and with the exception of a month spent traveling, stayed for nine months. We just hit it off with them, and it turns out their stay changed the course of their lives. Andy was at a crossroads and unsure of what to do with his future. Then, during his stay on the farm, he fell in love with winemaking and after he left, he joined wineries around the world for their harvests, returning to the U.K. and landing himself a job at a prestigious U.K. winery. From there, Andy’s love of the farm and of making natural wine, led to their coming once a year in our harvest to make wine with us. One of the barrels of wine made was for his own label, Sonkop, which together with some of our Dragonridge wine, we shipped to the U.K.

The second couple to find a special place in our hearts were Geraldine and Sven from Switzerland. They came originally in 2012, and like Andy and Becky, stayed much longer than their original time planned. They then returned for another few months the following year, and two years later, they left Switzerland and moved to Cape Town, taking jobs in the city. After a year, Sven quit his job and sadly they returned to Switzerland. Geri has since returned here a few times for holidays on the farm and has become a close friend.

Apart from these couples other volunteers with whom we have kept contact include Gosia from Sweden, Lisa Marie from Cape Town, and Sophie, our godchild, from Canada.