A Visit to Bosman Family Vineyards | Part 2

After visiting some bright sparks at the Bosman Family Vineyards primary school (Read about it here in PART 1), our investigation into the farm’s ‘community first’ ethos continues. Rita Andreas, a fifth generation worker, leads us past the vineyards to a warehouse bustling with activity. The workers are doing ‘stokkies’; a non-machine form of vine grafting that means workers have income throughout the year. This was Rita’s very first job, many years ago. Her son also followed in her footsteps, before studying winemaking. We ask her about how the farm manages to maintain such an enjoyable work environment.
‘It’s all about communication. On this farm, there’s nothing the farmworkers can’t ask for and talk about with the family… nobody has anything to hide’.

This theme of transparency is evident when a group of Swedish students interrupts our photo session. They have been granted full access to the farm in order to study its Fairtrade practices and film a documentary. We listen in as they interview John; a polite man who chairs the Workers Commission, which has been meeting regularly since pre-1994, to liaise between all parties on the farm. How to channel the Fairtrade funds back into the workers’ lives is a constant debate. They already have rugby and cricket teams, a karate club, a choir, as well as a Men’s club and a Women’s club, where leadership and life skills are instilled. Rita, our humble guide, has been central to the clubs being formed, we learn, and she is even the choir conductor. She doesn’t skip a beat, when we ask what’s next…
‘I want us to have a farm orchestra. Music gives you discipline, I have known this since I was taught piano here on the farm as a youngster’.

As we tuck into a tasty lunch of rich cottage pie, we ask to visit the workers’ housing that the farm provides. A new building in town has just been built, it transpires, which can house up to 20 families. So, we hop in the car and a few minutes later, in a cosy Wellington street, we find Adama Heights 2. This newly renovated, double-storey apartment block is as modern as they come… The residents will receive their keys shortly, and the farm’s bus driver is conveniently being housed next door. Their work commute should be a breeze! 
Rita adds, ‘Ownership is important. It means having pride. If you look at the houses on the farm, each has its own domain around it, so we can have a flower and vegetable garden competition every year.’

On the way back to our car, we ask Rita a burning question. Why can’t other farms be like this one? Her answer floors us.
‘But they will… I’m working with many as we speak!’ 
Rita tells us about the National Farmworkers Forum, which she started a few years ago. She wants it to spread beyond the Western Cape, to help farmworkers throughout the country, regardless of stature or specific industry. 
‘I want farmers to believe in their workers. Here, we bought shares in the company, so we inherited success and partners. Not just land. Land on its own is useless without the other essentials’.
We joke, ‘Rita, you could become the Minister for Agriculture!’.
She looks at us, twinkling. Our day is over… but we feel there’s more here.

We head back the next day, to find out more about Rita’s plans. At the primary school, we bump into the Sonskyn Seniors; the farm’s senior citizens club, which gets all of the 60 to 85 year-olds together on a weekly basis, to brunch, exercise, sing and have fun with beadwork, knitting, cards and dominoes. After a few rousing songs and a soulful poem about the moon, the club’s leader tells us where we can find Rita. Apparently, Rita, our gentle-spoken guide, has an office at the Drakenstein Municipality. After a short drive, we arrive to discover that she is in fact a local ward councillor, working just down the corridor from the mayor’s office! 
‘Of course I must represent my people. And you know, I honestly think I can be the best person for it, because I know every single job on the farms and what each person goes through.’ 

After hearing about her genuine wishes to become Minister for Agriculture, we bid Rita heartfelt farewell. On the way out, we run a bit of trivia by her. 
‘Cornal Hendricks, the Springbok rugby player... apparently he came from here?’
‘Oh yes, I know Cornal. My husband coached him and he brought us back his first jersey!’

Driving home, we reflect. There is no pretension behind the gates at Bosman Family Vineyards. There are no have’s and have-nots either. It is a simple community, run by the realistic needs of its people. Bosman Family Vineyards is how the world should work. Or South Africa at least. And, according to Rita, it’s really not that hard. We know who’s got our vote…