History & Background

History

Schoeman

Schoeman celebrated its centenary in 2019. The family business evolved over the past 100 years to become the operation it is today. 

The history of a pioneer

Karel Schoeman was the youngest son of  Gen. Hendrik Schoeman and his second wife. There were 7 children with the first wife and 11 with the second. Karel matriculated from Pretoria Boys High in 1910 and joined a brother Johan afterward on the family farm, Schoemansrust, the now Schoemansville, where they ran a mixed farming operation. 

On 3 September 1918 Karel marries Annie Neethling – daughter of Andries Jacobus Neethling and his wife Rachel Petronella de Villiers, from the farm Vlakplaats, about 18 km from Delmas. This was on the eve of the Big Flu Pandemic, which Karel contracted and luckily survived. During his illness – father-in-law Andries Neethling visited Karel and Annie to support them, and after his recovery – Andries invites Karel to farm with him at Vlakplaats, an offer he couldn’t refuse. 

This is how the Schoeman legacy started on the farm Vlakplaats in the Delmas district in 1919 as Karel started farming side by side with his father-in-law. On 30 June 1920, Andries Neethling transfers Vlakplaats and half of Mosesriviersmond (today known as Moosrivier) in the Groblersdal district to Annie. In 1929 Karel bought the other half of Moosrivier from Annie’s sister and rented the third part from Annie’s cousin. A gravel road took you from Vlakplaats to Moosrivier and it took about three days to get there.

Founder Karel Schoeman

When Karel Schoeman started farming on Vlakplaats it was a cattle and maize farm. He pioneered the planting of table grapes in the summer rainfall area at Moosrivier close to Groblersdal which earned him the name of “Father of soft fruit in the Transvaal”. Karel became the largest producer of table grapes in the Transvaal.

If you sum up Karel Schoeman, the words that come to mind are pioneering, he had vision and an appetite for risk and absolute faith in God.  Most importantly he believed in looking after nature and after the community, he lived in. Virtues still very much part of the family business. During the depression in 1931-1932 hordes of people arrived on the farm in their ox wagons looking for work. He gave them each a piece of land to deforest and put their homes on. He provided the water and they became partial sowers. Fifty percent of what they harvested went to Karel Schoeman and the rest was their own. 

Karel had to transport the wheat he received from the partial sowers to the miller in Bronkhorstspruit with an ox wagon. The miller graded the good wheat as “ good fowl’s food” to ensure he pays the minimum for it. This was not sustainable. Karel and other farmers from the region decided to stand together against monopolism and started the Delmas Cooperation as a countermeasure to ensure they receive market-related prices for their products. Delmas Cooperation later became OTK that evolved into the AFGRI we know today. 

Karel later became the founder of the Hereford Irrigation Board which was a private irrigation scheme that led water via a canal for 48km to the farm. This still sustains many famers in the Loskop Valley. 

A pioneer needs a strong woman at his side, and it was largely through Annie’s inheritance that he was able to farm and expand his farming operations successfully. Annie Neethling Schoeman survived a traumatic childhood where she saw her family’s farm Vlakplaats burnt to the ground during the Anglo Boer War. She lost two siblings in the Concentration Camps, and like many of her peers, never spoke about that part of her life. She stood by Karel and gave birth to two sons Andries and Hendrik who both joined the family farming business. Annie always had a soft spot for charity and donated the land where the current farmer’s hall is in Delmas. Today it is used by the “Lewende Woord” church.      

A legacy is born

Andries and Hendrik both had a passion for farming. Andries for livestock and game and Hendrik for crops and fruit. The two brothers had different management styles and could not continue their partnership, which led to the family-owned farms being divided among the two brothers in 1951 and the formal partnership of Karel Schoeman & Seuns dissolves in 1954. 

Hendrik took over his part of Schoeman in 1954 at the age of 27. Under his management, the business grew rapidly and he started planting citrus at Moosrivier. He had to borrow heavily to afford the trees, equipment, and packhouse for the new venture. The investment in citrus and the big credit burden it placed the business under, resulted in the farming of cash crops and livestock such as pigs, turkeys, prickly pears, dairy and beef cattle, avocado, papaya, tomatoes, tobacco, cotton, potato, pecan nuts, and watermelons.  

Hendrik Schoeman concentrated on becoming a large-scale farmer with advanced equipment and techniques in the Delmas, Nigel, Groblersdal, and Springs districts. From the start of his career, Hendrik was an active member of organised agriculture. This is evident in his role as director of the Delmas Koöperasie and later as the chairman of the Langeberg Koöperasie – the largest cooperative fruit canning factory in the world.

He was a natural leader who had a passion to serve, and he found a home for his passion in politics.  

In 1966, he became a Member of Parliament in the Standerton Constituency. On the day that he was inaugurated he watched Dimitri Tsafendas assassinate Hendrik Verwoerd in Parliament. Hendrik was a much-loved member of parliament known for his wit and humility. Like the time the then speaker of the parliament, Henning Klopper, reprimanded Hendrik for saying a fellow member of parliament looked like “a cow that ate tulips.” His pet peeve was long speeches – he likened it to a cow who gives a large bucket of milk just to kick it over. 

Schoeman appointed 24 managers to run his farming operations while he focused on serving the farming community on the national stage. 

John Vorster took over the reins after Verwoerd’s assassination and appointed Hendrik Schoeman as Deputy Minister of Agriculture only two years after his political debut. In August 1972, he was appointed Minister of Agriculture, and from 1980 he served as Minister of Transport until he retired from politics in 1986.

At his side was his wife Christelle Loedolff, his childhood friend from primary school in Delmas. Christelle matriculated in Pretoria at the Afrikaanse Hoër Meisieskool and then qualified as a social worker at the University of Pretoria. It prepared her for the 21 years of political service at her husband’s side. 

They had three children, Madel, the eldest, was born in 1952, Karel in 1954, and Christiaan in 1956. Commuting between Cape Town and Delmas twice a week and running four homes on the various farms and in Cape Town was a tall order for anybody. She did it with grace and servitude. 

A tragedy hit the family in 1974 when their youngest son Christiaan died in a shooting accident. 

Before he retired from politics on 1 December 1986, Hendrik was sworn in as acting president of the Republic of South Africa on 9 November 1986 – while president P.W. Botha was on a state visit to France and Madeira.

Hendrik passed away at only 67 years old in 1995. Hendrik the expander of Schoeman was not around anymore, but the baton was firmly in the hands of Kallie, the consolidator of Schoeman. 

Handing over the reins

Kallie Schoeman was born on 18 May 1954 and matriculated from Hoërskool Delmas in 1971. He went on to complete his military service in Kimberley. From there he enrolled to study Agricultural Economy at the University of Pretoria. He decided that academics was not for him and discontinued his studies, which coincided with the untimely death of his brother. Kallie decided to join his father at Schoeman and reported for his first day on 14 November 1974.

His father insisted that he be given no special treatment and he was given a piece of land to cultivate vegetables for their farmstalls. He learned to grow lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage, and beetroot. His vegetable garden is a beloved hobby to this day.

He was appointed manager of the farm Moabsvelden in 1975 after the farm manager suffered a heart attack, and soon after also managed the farms Welgevonden and Leeuwpan. In 1978, at the age of only 24 his father approached him to become the Managing Director of the farming business. 

Kobus Fourie, the husband of Kallie’s sister Madel, joined the business in 1983. In 1987 he became the Financial Director of Schoeman and stayed in this role until his recent retirement. Kobus fondly says that he started in a time BC – Before Computers!

When Kallie took over as Managing Director the business had a heavy debt burden, and he set out to find a solution. On the advice of prof. Eckart Kassier, an Agricultural Economist at the University of Stellenbosch, Kallie realised that the business did not have enough focus. He decided to seize farming with anything that contributed less than 10% to the business. 

Because his grandfather was the pioneer of table grapes in the Transvaal decades ago, one of the most difficult decisions he had to make was to phase out table grapes in favour of citrus. The last grapes were removed in 1996. The consolidation of the crops, livestock, and citrus spanned quite a few years and even included the birth of new business divisions such as the grain handling facilities in Delmas and the Agron fertilizer plant. (Now Trifert)

The strategy worked and exactly four years later Kallie Schoeman walked into the bank and paid off all their debt. The business was in the green and he could start building the legacy of Schoeman and run it as a cash business. The philosophy to this day is centered around liquidity, except when they acquire new land. Kallie expanded Schoeman to ten times the size of the business he started with in 1978. 

Such a task does not only require hard work, dedication, grace, and faith, it also needs a reliable soundboard. Kallie met his wife Elna in 1978 and they got married on 22 September 1979. She left teaching and devoted her life to the family and farming business and the Delmas community. They have one son, Hendrik, who is now the CEO of Moosrivier.

Yesterday, today, and tomorrow

The next generation is now set to take over, and the first youngsters to join the business were Brent Parrott and Hendrik Schoeman – both joined in 2008. Brent is married to Christelle, eldest daughter of Kobus and Madel Fourie. In 2011 Brent was appointed as the CEO of Grain Production and the Small White Bean plant. Hendrik, Kallie & Elna Schoeman’s son started as an orchard manager in the production division. In 2011, the marketing manager of the citrus division passed away and Hendrik took over the reins. He was promoted to CEO of Moosrivier in 2013. Jacques Roos, married to Madel, youngest daughter of Kobus and Madel Fourie joined the business in 2013. Jacques is tasked with looking after transformation, non-agriculture projects, and the commercial side of the business. Jacques also played a pivotal role in the transformation of Agron to Trifert and is also the CEO of Trifert.

After Kobus retired as Financial Director, Dirk Wolfaardt was appointed in the role in 2019 as the first non-family member to become an Executive Director. 

The business employs 903 full-time employees who live on various farms. They receive housing, water, and electricity and can use the various amenities available. It includes two pre-primary schools, two primary schools, a high school with 1108 learners, a new clinic that was completed in 2020, soccer fields, and a church. The workers run a sewing centre, where they make picking bags and uniforms as well as a popular bakery. They plan to build a woodwork factory soon. The Schoeman Farmstall is operative since the 1950s and is legendry on the N11 between Groblersdal and Marble Hall.

History of Schoeman's Trademark

The farm Mosesriviermond hails from the Moses river that forms one of the borders of the farm and joins the Olifants river. The Aarons river also flows through the area. In the Bible, brothers Moses and Aaron led the nation of Israel out of Egypt to the promised land Canaan. To see what lies ahead Moses sent twelve spies, one from each tribe into Canaan to scout for 40 days.

Moses asked for an assessment of the geographical features of the land, the strength and numbers of the population, the agricultural potential and actual performance of the land. He also asked them to return with samples of local produce.

Ten of the twelve spies showed little faith and gave doom and gloom reports since the land was good, but the inhabitants were giants and not to be challenged. They did not believe that God could help them, and the people as a whole were persuaded that it was not possible to take the land. As a result, the entire nation was made to wander in the desert for 40 years, until almost the entire generation of men had died.

Joshua and Caleb were the only two spies who brought back a good report and believed that God would help them succeed. They were the only men from their generation permitted to go into the Promised Land after the time of wandering. Joshua and Caleb spoke about the land that dripped of milk and honey. As proof, they brought back an enormous bunch of grapes, figs, and pomegranates. 

Schoeman’s logo depicts the massive bunch of grapes that Joshua and Caleb carried and symbolises their belief in God to overcome the giants and the fertility of Canaan. When Karel Schoeman wanted to register the trademark, he couldn’t because the Israeli Department of Tourism was already using it. He turned the image around and added the words “Die Kanaan van Transvaal”, the rest is history.