About Glen Elgin
Situated in the Elgin Valley, the Glen Elgin Farming business was started by the Molteno Brothers and has been established for more than 100 years. Glen Elgin is situated in the Groenberg Biosphere with its rich floral heritage of Cape Flora. This is the ideal location and climate to grow Glen Elgin Fynbos.
Molteno Bros History - 1903 to 2008
On the 29th July 1903 the brothers Henry ( Harry ) and Edward ( Ted ) Molteno purchased the farm Glen Elgin and commenced the farming operation which today is known as Molteno Brothers, administered by a board of Directors appointed in terms of the will of the younger brother Harry who died in 1969. The two brothers built up a significant deciduous fruit farming operation, pioneering many farming and cold storage practices. The operations are today managed by a qualified team of professionals who are overseen by the board of Directors. The beneficiaries of The Molteno Brothers Trust’s income are, in terms of the will, educational and charitable institutions in South Africa.
Since its inception the Trust has donated in excess of R 28 million to worthy causes, the major beneficiary being educational institutions. The most significant beneficiary has been a mother tongue and English literacy project, The Molteno Project, initiated and developed by Rhodes University, which has helped many millions of children and adults throughout Southern Africa. The original funding and a significant part of the financial support came from the Molteno Brothers Trust, hence the name of the project.
The farming business today comprises a diversified operation that has extended the deciduous fruit base of apples and pears and the fruit packing facility that the brothers built up in their time. To assist you in your appreciation of the business we set out in this document some of the technical and more interesting statistics.
The Land and Agriculture
The farm is 1 690 hectares in extent of which horticultural activities occupy:
- • Apples - 458 ha
- • Pears - 82 ha
- • Fynbos Cutflowers - 45 ha
- • Fynbos Nursery - 1ha
All the traditional varieties of apple [ Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Royal Gala, Top Red, Starking] are grown, together with some of the newer varieties [Pink Lady, Sundowner, Fuji, Braeburn]. The major pear variety grown is the Packham’s Triumph.
The farm adopts the latest horticultural practices which now will include the release of sterile codling moths to limit the spread of this pest.
In 1995 the farm commenced cultivated cutflower production of the following fynbos (indigenous flowers) varieties:
- • Protea [Sylvia, Susara, Cynaroides, Brenda]
- • Leucospermum [Succession, Soleil]
- • Brunia – "greens" [Albiflora]
These flowers are grown for the export market and successful trials have been made to ship certain varieties to Europe, as opposed to air freight. The development of new varieties is being taken up by a joint venture with two other producers, a SA exporter and a Dutch importer.
The Fynbos nursery was started in 2006 where high quality, potted proteaceae plants are produced for the retail market. These plants are delivered with a label giving growing instructions and other relevant product information. The nursery also supplies landscapers and other commercial growers with rooted cuttings.
Approximately 30 hectares were given to wine grape production in 2004, an ever increasing practice in the Elgin valley as the area offers climatic advantages for the production of high quality wine grapes. Molteno Brothers produces grapes specifically for the Vergelegen winery.
An apiary with approximately 840 hives provides the very necessary pollination capability for the annual blossom in the apple and pear orchards. Although not a major activity, honey is a byproduct of the apiary, the hives being stored throughout this area.
The farm falls within the Groenland Berg Conservancy, a voluntary grouping of landowners interested in recognizing conservation on their land. This is significant as a large proportion of Glen Elgin land comprises natural fynbos. An eco-route has just been opened (Green Mountain Eco Route) where Molteno Brothers is one of 27 Eco – route Members. This is the world’s first biodiversity route.
The Molteno brothers always took responsibility for the packing of their own fruit and the pack house today is the result of this policy. The pack house has two modern electronic sizers, the smaller being a dry line used mostly for pears, and the larger is a double eight lane Durand Wayland [from the USA] machine, with a recent addition of digital colour sorting capability. The plants packing capability is about 600 bins of fruit per day, dependent upon which variety is being packed. The total annual pack is approximately 1.2 million cartons, of which 65% is for export and the balance is sold through the local fresh fruit markets under the respected Trio brand. The pack house has achieved BRC [British Retail Consortium] accreditation at the higher level, a necessary accreditation to sell fruit into the demanding UK and European markets.
The cold store facilities accommodate 60 000 fruit bins, of which 28 000 are CA [controlled atmosphere] stores, and the facilities are USA and Taiwan accredited for sterilization container loading.
The apple drying facility was commissioned in 1969 to add value to our third grade apple and uses approximately 2000 tonnes of apple per year, producing 230 tonnes of dried apple rings. The dried apple rings are sold into the dried fruit market and the S A Dried Fruit Co is the major customer. Dried apple is increasingly used in the production of dried fruit sweets.
In 1998 we commenced the production of apple juice, for both the fresh juice and the apple cider vinegar markets. The annual production of approx 2 million liters utilizes 2300 tonnes of third grade apples. The fresh product is pasteurized and is sold on both the local and export markets.
**Note – Some of the Commercial activities have been upgraded and the figures may have changed.
The People of Molteno Brothers
The fruit industry is a very seasonal business and our work force numbers vary considerably throughout the year. At the height of the picking and packing season our total employee strength is close to 1 000 persons, of which approx 260 work in the pack house, the majority being involved in the horticultural side of the farm. Our salaried staff number 46. A large percentage of the employees work on fixed term contracts, of who most are re-employed annually.
All employees are members of either the provident or pension funds and medical facilities are provided to all employees; a fulltime nursing sister runs a clinic on the farm that is serviced by local doctors three times a week. A fulltime qualified social worker attends to the social concerns of the employees.
A day care nursery school looks after employees’ children, ages varying between four months and six years, and there is a government primary school on the farm that includes two teachers provided for by the farm. A tertiary education bursary programme assists employees’ children living on the farm.
Housing is provided for all permanent employees on the farm, and there is hostel accommodation provided for the contract employees who come from afar, mostly from the Transkei. The housing estate known as The Oaks, occupied by employees of whom some are fourth generation residents, has been offered to the householders as part of the government’s home ownership programme. It has become a self contained village owned by the community on a freehold title basis that incorporates a hall, retirement home, swimming pool, library, church, sports club with cricket and rugby fields and the primary school.