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Wine Often Brings People Together – And Not Just in the Drinking of it.
On a Visit to RUST EN VREDE, Winifred Bowman finds out how the Roos family has brought together a whole community in the making of wines.
A distinct calm descends when you pass through the leafy archway and enter Rust en Vrede (Rest and Peace), a farm on the R44 near Stellenbosch. It is owned by the Roos family, brothers Tjuks and Johan who are the fifth generation to farm this land. Says Tjuks, “The more you invest in the people who work for you, the bigger the success of your business. My brother and I grew up with this principle of empowerment and we believe that we and the community around us are one big family.”
Today Tjuks and his wife Susan live in the house where rugby legend and school headmaster Paul Roos was born in 1880. The Roos family has always been known for its passion for education – and particularly the education of the farms’ workers. Tjuks started farming in 1983 and was joined by brother Johan in 1985. The first thing to be done was establish a crèche on the property. Today Babbel en Krabbel is ably run by headmistress Anna- Marie Adams and two assistants, who care for 13 children from 7am to 5:30pm. The crèche has been a great success and Tjuks bursts with pride when he talks about the achievements of children who have progressed into mainstream schools and then university. “Our ultimate aim is to make a difference in the life of every child, to educate each and every one so that they can realise their individual potential. We have quite a few workers with school-going children and the youngsters, with their parents’ permission, spend holidays working on the farm. We expose them to all aspects of farming and try to instil in them a love for the land. Hopefully some will go on to study agriculture and come back to the farm and take up the reins in the future,” says Tjuks.
The crèche’s motto is ‘Build South African on child at a time’ and it and what is being done on Rust en Vrede are so well known that HRH Princess Anne, patron of the Save the Children Foundation, visited the farm in 1994. She was so impressed by the standard of activities at the crèche that she donated money through the then Rural Foundation to further this endeavour, as well as for the establishment of basic community medical care on the farm.
At present, plans are afoot to expand the crèche and to create a community centre where the farm workers can conduct church services and host functions. In order to help finance the project, a BEE company, Paul Roos Farming, has been established. The company is 70% owned by the workers on the farm and produces two aptly names wines: a red, Die Filantroop (The Philanthropist), and a white, Die Skoolhoof (The Headmaster). Both wines are blends, Die Filantroop comprising Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinotage; and Die Skoolhoof, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. Both are made in small quantities, only 2000 bottles each per year. The latest vintages have been awarded 4.5 stars in the 2017 Platter’s South African Wine Guide.
As part of the notion of a large family, winemaker Gus Dale is an integral part of the education process: he spends many an evening teaching computer literacy and skills to adults and teens. For Gus being involved with the Roos family has been a very rewarding experience. “I see myself as being responsible not only for the culture of the vines, but equally for the culture of the people who work and live here,” he says. “This is and shall be may crusade.”
Gus goes on to explain what is behind the latest developments. “With the development of Paul Roos Farming, we are getting the message across that the workers and shareholders can become more self-reliant and have a vested interest in improving the quality of their work. Thankfully, on our side we have one of the most incredible people I have ever met, Piet Adams, who manages his community. Piet was born on the farm and is exactly the same age as Tjuks. In fact, they were childhood friends – Piet’s mother was Tjuks’s nanny, so they played together 24/7.
“The wine project is really the cherry on the cake as far as self-empowerment is concerned. Not only will the wines provide funding for the education of the workers’ children, but the project is the perfect vessel for showing the adults how to run a business and provide for themselves. It is also teaching them not to expect immediate, short-term gains, but to rather invest today in order to reap benefits in the years to come.”
One can only marvel at the Roos family’s philosophy and everything they have achieved. It brings hope and inspiration for us all in South Africa.