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Our first harvest and the decline of Swartland CO-OP

Soon after we arrived these plonking city types had to get it together to harvest and take in close to 300 tonnes of grapes. This was the amount contracted to Swartland Co-op (bought with the farm as our quota)

It was a lot of grapes to deal with and daunting. We found out about a team of harvesters from near Saaron and went to fetch them. This took many hours as most assigned had disappeared up narrow streets and had to be found. Once the team came to the farm they had to be given somewhere to sleep and cooking equipment, and we had to buy provisions which we kept in `the shop’ from which they bought what they wanted.

Then we had to ensure we had clippers and crates and off they went to pick. Once a sizable portion came in, it was loaded into the Bedford which Johan drive to the cellar. Since the Bedford barely had brakes this put me in panic until I saw him again. And that was usually a long while afterwards as he would sit in a long queue sometimes through the night o off load his grapes.  An added stress was that we had to pay for each undelivered done as assigned by our quota.

 

This rigmarole went on for some 4 weeks repeated each year. We changed our team a few times given the drunkenness of the Saaron bunch and ended up using township people. But they brought other difficulties. We paid well and a lot better than other farmers, and so numerous pickers would pick a set of crates and then settle down under a tree to while the day away. No amount of entreaty would change the situation. There were some interesting moments. One woman became stiff as a ramrod and had to be carted off to hospital horizontally.  She returned a day or so later and the story was that a spell had been put on her for stealing someone’s man. Definitely something to be said for Freud’s notion of hysterical physical symptoms.

Sadly the harvesting story became more and more difficult. Swartland cellar was consistently mismanaged by its rather well paid directors so that payments were lower and lower, and no input from us and a few others outside the magic old school farmer circle, was listened to. A decision for example to upgrade the cellar to a tune of 50 million at the least sensible moment in the economy fundamentally led to the bankruptcy of the co-op.

It took a few years before the co-op became a company and we could get out.  The quota we put into the co-op where changed into shares and became worthless.

We  had to find a new way to make a living.