There is no denying that macadamia nut farming is a lucrative, growing business in South Africa – and particularly here on the KZN North Coast. We spoke to a local macadamia farmer about this exciting crop.
Almost every South African has, at some point, fantasized about what it would be like to live on a farm. Wide open spaces, beautiful countryside and the pleasure and reward of growing a crop and reaping the benefits of what you have sown.
While this may seem like just a pipe dream to most, there are many North Coasters who are turning this dream into a reality. Their crop of choice? Macadamia nut trees.
Macadamia nuts are a profitable, high value crop … and our nuts are in high demand. In fact, South Africa is currently the largest macadamia nut producer in the world. And our beautiful, tropical North Coast climate makes this the ideal spot to grow these delicious, multi-purpose nuts!
Fairview Estates, just outside Ballito, is a 480-hectare estate that encourages people to go back to traditional farm-style living – within a secure estate. When you buy a piece of land in the estate you are also afforded the chance to become a member of the macadamia co-op, allowing you to enjoy a taste of small-to-medium-scale commercial farming by planting and harvesting macadamia nuts on your small-holding.
Fairview Estates Macadamia Co-op CEO and farmer Scott Meyer lives on the estate and heads up the macadamia co-op. He is passionate about this exciting venture, particularly because, he says, the crops are being grown in a truly sustainable way, which is somewhat different from the traditional, commercial farming environment.
“It’s really exciting to be regenerating this land and reintroducing a wide range of biodiversities,” he says. “As this was an old sugar cane farm, we are moving away from that monoculture and redeveloping grasslands and allowing wild flowers to grow. This means there are loads of birds, butterflies and insects and the land is full of life once more.”
Scott says macadamia nut farming allows you to use regenerative farming processes that incorporate different biodiversities, allowing nature to do its thing within its ecosystems with no chemical interceptions.
“Macadamia trees only produce nuts six to 10 years after planting, so this is a long-term investment. But this also means you don’t need to spray pesticides (which often kill both the good and bad bugs) to protect the nuts. It’s wonderful to see the soil full of earthworms and butterflies and bees coming back to this land.”
There are a number of benefits to being a member of the farming co-op, especially because you don’t have to invest in farming equipment, vehicles and staff yourself. You also don’t have to know too much about farming!
Fairview owner Dudley Wang says, like many South Africans, he has always dreamt of living on a farm or small holding. Two years ago he and his family decided to diversify their portfolio and invested in 40 hectares of land in Fairview Estates. “We planted our first trees in October last year and it’s been the most wonderful experience. I know very little about mac nut farming, so it’s been great to have a genuine, experienced farmer looking after our crops.”
Dudley says he was very ‘macadamia-naive’ when they first bought the land and has even done a short course to upskill himself. “I also talk to the trees and they listen to me,” he laughs. Dudley, who is retired, has made it his mission to ensure that he checks on every one of his trees each month. His long walks on the farm have improved his health, he says, and his children and grandchildren all love spending time there. “It’s a wonderful ‘last career’ for me and in 10 years’ time the farm should be generating enough to cover at least five to eight of the children’s educations per annum.”
5 MACADAMIA NUT FARMING FACTS:
1. South Africa is currently the largest macadamia nut producer in the world and, according to Scott, it’s still in its infancy.
2. Macadamia nut farming is a long-term investment. Once you plant your trees you can expect your first nuts in about 6 to 10 years.
3. The KZN coastal belt is one of the best places in the world to grow macadamia nuts.
4. Macadamia nuts only make up about 2% of the world nut tree production.
5. Macadamia nuts are a wonderful crop because they are used in a lot of secondary value-add products, many of which are made by small, local producers. It is also a very stable and safe crop with a long shelf life.
Text: Leah Shone Photographs: Chris Allan Photo