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Our Story

It Started With a Single Strange Fruit


Our interest and love for farming started in 2017 on a typical summer's day while out grocery shopping, when we came across a never before seen (by us) peculiar yet beautifully alluring bright red fruit with soft green fins which almost looked alien to us. We immediately felt the urge to buy it despite its hefty price tag of almost R70/kg at the time.

 

When we got home we couldn't wait to have a taste and as soon as I cut the fruit open I immediately fell in love with the intense magenta colour of its soft yet crispy flesh and micro black seeds. Then upon the first bite what immediately struck me was the subtle yet refreshingly 'organic' taste which while sweet enough didn't resemble the highly modified seedless fruit which we have all become so accustomed to.
 

It was exactly at this point that we knew that we need to consider looking into organic farming.

The fruit we purchased was called a Dragonfruit and in hindsight, it was actually very strange to find a purple-fleshed variety of the fruit in a local supermarket considering how young the Dragonfruit farming industry still was. Unfortunately, most Dragonfruit found in local supermarkets today is from the more common 'white-fleshed' variety which simply does not pack the same flavor punch as the purple-fleshed varieties. But fortunately, this is something we hope to help change in the future!


Following our experience and after doing extensive research and planning, I decided to sell the majority of my equity investments and procure 500 cuttings of the purple-fleshed Hylocereus Costaricensis variety. At this point, I also started making plans to move to George as we were living in Cape Town. 


Mistakes Were Made

 

In the middle of winter in June of 2017, we finally received our box of 500 bruised and completely unrooted cuttings. We also didn't own any land so decided to propagate the cuttings on a small piece of land owned by my parents also living in George. But, as it turns out and what we soon learned was that Dragonfruit cuttings will not start to root in the middle of winter unless properly prepared and correctly stored.

 

So after many months of worrying that we will lose our plant material (and we did lose some), we decided that as spring approached to plant the still unrooted cuttings in nursery bags containing soil with rich organic matter to 'encourage' rooting. This, as it turns out, was a mistake, because the plants had no way to utilize the organic matter in the soil and instead started to show signs of rot. We were then forced to replant them in sterile soil and
patiently wait until they started rooting. Only once they were rooted could we finally replant them in the organic soil which was another hint towards our name 'organically rooted'.

All this was happening while we were still working in Cape Town and had to drive through to George every chance we got in order to tend to the plants. We were swimming in the deep end and the learning curve was steep. But throughout the entire process, we learned a lot.

It Wasn't Always Smooth Sailing


The plan at this point was to move to George in December (2017) and start laying out the infrastructure necessary to farm the dragons on a commercial scale in cooperation with my parents. But, shortly after we moved to George, there were some unforeseen circumstances causing us to realize our original plan was not going to work.

So, over the course of the next 2 years, we slowly continued to clone and propagate the dragons planting them in nursery bags and selling them to the public and nurseries. During this period we continued to learn a lot and also started experimenting with other exotic fruits which included rare and super hot chilies. Having resigned from our jobs in Cape Town funding and business capital were a real problem but we were hopeful that we will someday get our break.

Opportunity Knocks


About two years later in November of 2019, out of the blue, an opportunity to rent on a smallholding miraculously crossed our paths when we met a landlord not only passionate about plants and farming but experienced in establishing business ventures. We were immediately interested and agreed to enter into a business venture. And almost as soon as we moved in we started preparing the land and planning our infrastructure.

 

In terms of infrastructure, we settled on a trellis design supported by A-frames and droppers. This allowed us to initially accommodate around 800 plants with the option of expanding to 2000 plants in the future.

 

As things turned out just as we started preparations to set up infrastructure the COVID lockdown was implemented and with winter fast approaching we had to do most of the work ourselves. Luckily we had a farmworker living on-site which really helped us a lot. Fortunately, by May of 2020, the majority of our plants were starting to settle, finally! At this point, we had about 300 young plants not much bigger than 25-30cm each, and from a distance, you could barely tell something was growing.

 

Disaster Struck

 

Barely a few weeks later, we started noticing some serious sunburn on our young plants, which as cuttings was never accustomed to direct sunlight (another lesson we learned).  This resulted in us losing about 100 of our plants. Thankfully we had some more rooted cuttings available and with winter in full force, we proceeded to replace them hoping for the best.

We Are Expanding


One year later, by May 2021 our plants have grown so much that we regularly had to prune cuttings as we trained the branches up the trellis. At this point, they were approximately chest height and starting to fill out the trellis.

Throughout this period we mostly relied on rainwater and only fertilized with organic chicken manure. Things were looking up so we decided to plant 300 more cuttings and by summer (year-end) of 2021, we planted even more cuttings by diversifying our varieties. In 2021 we also started our Carolina Reaper garden, where we grow the world's hottest chilli peppers.

By February of 2022 (barely 2 years old), our plants have started regularly flowering and at one point we counted around 200 flowers blooming. By March of 2022, we started harvesting fruits and can now finally enjoy the fruits of many years of labor.

 

With our fruits in season, we started experimenting with all kinds of different products, which include
drying the fruits as well as freezing them and using them in smoothies and sorbets. Our Carolina Reaper chilli harvest has also been exceptional and the seeds and dried pods are already starting to make their way to growers and hot sauce makers everywhere.

A New Journey

After nearly 3 and a half years on the farm it was time for us to move on to a new farm. It was also during this time that we had the opportunity to start a completely new venture called micro farming with the focus on hydroponically grown microgreens. Nearly two years on we are still going strong and really enjoying the new business. We have also partnered with a lovely family who also stays on the farm who are not only good friends but passionate homesteaders walking this journey with us.

Planted Dragonfruit Cuttings
Young dragonfruit plants
Dragonfruit plants in nursery bags
Young Dragonfruit Plants Closeup
Farmland Preparation
Dragonfruit Trellis
Weed mat placement
Dragonfruit plants in soil
Dragonfruit Plants Growing
Dragonfruit plants on trellis
Dragonfruit Flowering
Dragonfruit First Fruits
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