Sunday Tribune

Umhlali farmer’s budding greens

Experience­d Bala Valayadam, 63, who named his market after his wife, knows how to keep things fresh, writes Nkululeko Nene


VEGETABLE lovers routinely and excitedly buy their greens from Cindy’s Fresh Produce shop in the small town of Umhlali, but little do they know how much effort goes into harvesting the succulent herbs they munch on.

Bala Valayadam, 63, who with the support of his wife Cindy, after whom the farm and business was named, have over the years been making sure the community enjoys a healthy green diet.

Valayadam said his wife was his best adviser and business mentor. The couple have two grown up sons, one of whom is an attorney, and the other a businessma­n.

“Whatever you see on the farm is because of her. She has been my shoulder to lean on and my pillow to cry on when there were difficulti­es on the farm. While I am sweating here on the farm, she takes care of the family store business in town,” Valayadam said.

The family’s lush, green vegetable crop, nestled on a slope next to the N2 highway, before the Umhlali turn off, is an attraction and can hardly be missed when driving on the highway north-bound.

The family’s two hectares of land were acquired in 1993 from the previous farmer, who ran a banana plantation.

Valayadam and his 16 workers grow brinjal, kale, lettuce, chillies, cauliflowe­r, coriander, jam tomatoes, baby tomatoes, and spinach. Cucumber and pepper are grown in tunnels Valayadam at his family shop, Cindy’s Fresh Produce, with the veggies he produced on his farm. away from the sunlight.

“I also would like to attribute the success to my staff who are hard-working. I make it a point that laziness does not put food on the table,” he said.

Despite supplying his family shop, Valayadam’s fresh produce is supplied to many popular restaurant­s in Ballito as well as retailers. “We have never disappoint­ed our customers; they get all their stock on time. We supply lettuce twice a week to retailers. We transport two bakkie loads every week to the markets. He said they produced a lot of different types of lettuce on the farm – including red and green lettuce – which was their biggest crop produce, followed by kale. The farmer said the best season for crop growing was winter, since the weather was cool.

The energetic Valayadam said working on the farm kept him fit and in good health.

“I am energetic with good eyesight, but I am far from retiring,” he said.

His experience has taught him to alternate crops to keep the soil fertile. He also uses pesticides to get rid of the insects which destroy crops. He has large tunnels where he grows jam tomatoes, red pepper, green beans, cucumber and other varieties.

Valayadam grew up preparing carrots and spinach beds early in his teens, before he bought the small family farm about three decades ago.

Once he acquired the banana farm he never looked back. He switched from banana growing to herbs after he discovered a market niche for veggies.

With little capital to start he began planting on a small scale while selling his harvest to his community until he was a fully fledged farmer.

He said that sometimes farming next to the freeway had its own disadvanta­ges, as people would steal from his garden. But that has not stopped him.

“I know we are living in difficult times where people have no food to share with their families. I would be employing a lot of people to work on the farm so they could support their families,” he said.

For irrigation, Valayadam has boreholes and three big Jojo tanks and a small fish lake.

With steady capital, Valayadam managed to buy a tractor and two bakkies he uses to transport his supplies.

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Valayadam checks on his green peppers growing in the tunnel.
Valayadam checks on his green peppers growing in the tunnel.
 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa