Life lessons from a young farmer bring joy to everyone who meets her.
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (18 October 2021) – Rita Joosten is in her early twenties. She works in the hydroponic greenhouses at Emseni Farming in KwaZulu-Natal. The enthusiasm with which she shares her knowledge about pepper farming is contagious, and the passion she radiates is evident.
Rita is the daughter of the farm manager at Emseni, Dietmar Joosten. She is a member of the fourth generation of family farmers. Her sister, who currently works at the Emseni packhouse, and herself used to visit the farming projects with their father when they were small. These visits established their love of farming from a very early age.
Few young people her age have worked out exactly what they want to do in life, and not many acquire so much knowledge of their field at such a young age. She adds value to any conversation with her exceptional important life lessons.
“Did you know that the pepper is God’s most humble plant?” she said with conviction. She continued by saying, “The plant starts as a flower and then grows into fruit. Look here at the flower that bends its head down… it is of humility. When the flower lifts its cup, we know that the plant is not healthy; and some large greenhouse farmers pick the flower because they know it will bear bad fruit. Only the humble fruit is chosen. This reminds me daily to remain humble.”
“We try and do everything biologically”, she tells me. “For instance, tiny spiders are imported from the Netherlands and Israel in small sachets such as this one over here to control pests. The spider is very small and can hardly be seen with the naked eye, but they have a positive impact on the plant. What I learned from insects, in general, is that even though they are so small, they have a positive impact on the environment. It reminds me that the smallest gesture, such as a simple ‘hello’ to a stranger, can have a huge impact on others around us. The smallest smile can positively affect someone else’s whole day, and I try to live in such a way that I also make an impact.”
Rita went on further to say, “Small plants always have the risk of becoming infected with diseases, and the farmer may then very soon lose a crop. “We plant the seedlings upside down, as this prevents them from being infected by viruses. Our workers must disinfect their hands thoroughly before touching the seedlings. We also use milk for the plants because the proteins in the milk have an antiviral effect on the small plants. If a plant has a virus, the milk will prevent it from spreading to other plants.”
When asked why she prefers to farm with her family on Emseni, the quick response was, “It is the high moral values of the leaders that have attracted me, and it was especially the respect for people and the way they work; with people that spoke to me.”
Emseni Farming is situated on a 550-hectare farm between Stanger and Greytown in Kranskop, Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN), South Africa, at the edge of the Tugela River and the Valley of a Thousand Hills. It grew steadily over the years from its original community vegetable gardens to a successful and inspiring enterprise that benefits the community. Plans are already in place for more growth. It is now known as one of the biggest hydroponically grown pepper producers in South Africa, with complete greenhouses on 11.5 hectares of ground. The latest project, comprising 3 hectares of high-tech greenhouses, opened this year. It is a flagship project which combines the latest technologies. Emseni Farming is sustainable and diversified and has farmed for more than 50 ears with grace, as its name implies.