Freshness from the NamibBy: ADAM HARTMAN
WITH the success that has become ‘Gideon’ Swakop River smallholding today, it is as if nothing is impossible, according to Fanie van Niekerk.
After moving from Orange Free State in South Africa 15 years ago, where he worked on an asparagus farm soon after the production industry for this vegetable was squeezed out by cheaper imports, the agricultural studies that Van Niekerk had taken years before came in handy.
The farm that Van Niekerk bought just outside Swakopmund along the river has seen him use his green fingers to his benefit. The herb farmer started planting and experimenting with all kinds of plants and today he has no regrets. Now he produces 20 different kinds of herbs. They also bake rusks and grow oyster mushrooms (his speciality), which they supply to the local market at the coast.
Though competing with the harsh elements of the Namib that include extreme temperatures, strong winds and ‘hard’ (saline) water and ground, to make a living, Van Niekerk is winning because he loves what he does. “It’s not the best place to farm, but it is lovely to live here, so why not make the most of it?” he told The Namibian.
Besides all the vegetables and herbs he grows, Oyster mushrooms are where his passion lies and he has taught himself how to produce enough to have a marketable quantity.
“Oyster mushrooms grow best here and it is fairly easy to produce once one knows how to go about it. There is also a demand for this delicious fungus at the coast, where I also supply to local restaurants and hotels,” Van Niekerk explained.
However, the active farmer is always looking for ways to do better farming. “I want to go biological; not organic. To go totally organic is nearly impossible here because one needs fertilizer, since there is little organic material available for compost. Biological is as close to organic as possible,” he explained. “This is how I make a living.”