The Meyer Family, owners of Ghaapseberg Foods, is a pioneering farming family from the Harts River Valley (Vaalharts) on the foot of the Ghaap Plateau, and has cultivated the land for the past seventy years.
Some of the first plantings of pecan trees in the valley were made by Jurie Meyer (Snr) during the mid 1970`s. For many years, pecans were not recognised as an important agricultural branch of Meyer Agri Trust, which at that time preferred to specialise in the production of citrus fruit, peanuts, cotton, maize, wheat and barley, as well as cattle breeding.
It was only after Meyer`s second son Dawie (who graduated from the University of Pretoria with an Honours Degree in Horticulture and from Stellenbosch University with a Masters Degree in Science) joined during 2001, that commercial plantings gained momentum. Since then, the pecan division has grown steadily with the establishment of new orchards every year since. A total of 273 ha (674 acres) of arable land are available on the farms of Meyer Agri Trust for the establishment of pecan orchards.
The importance of pecan production further increased when Meyer`s youngest son Jurie (Jnr) (who graduated from Free State University) joined the team. Ghaapseberg Foods was established as a marketing branch for the rising volumes of pecans produced on the farms of Meyer Agri Trust. During 2004 Ghaapseberg Foods became a separate business enterprise. Today, Ghaapseberg Foods also buy pecans in their shells from other selected producers and has firmly established itself as a young, dynamic and leading pecan processor.
Cecil John Rhodes, diamond magnate and a premier of the Cape colony at the end of the nineteenth century, envisaged an Africa linked by a railway line from Cape Town in the South to Cairo in the North. On an exploration trip, he travelled to the Harts River Valley, bordered by the Ghaap Plateau to the West and the Marokane hills to the east. On this visit he was also struck by another great vision - a desert land watered by two rivers (the Vaal - and the Harts Rivers), which would eventually serve as South Africa's breadbasket. Many years however had gone by before this dream materialized, and it was only near half a century later that the first farms were handed to farmers. Since then this area has changed from a semi-desert valley (classified as Savanna - Kalahari grassland) to a tree-rich oasis so green it almost overwhelms the eye. Today a total of 35898ha (88668 acres) of land is irrigated by means of these rivers (the Vaalharts irrigation scheme) with twelve different crops being commercially cultivated.
In recent years the cultivation of pecans has almost exploded in the area due to near perfect climatic and terrestrial conditions. Trees thrive in the deep alluvial soils and there is an abundance of water available. Hot summers and cold winters combined with an arid climate make very little, if any, insecticides and pesticides necessary to produce supreme quality pecans.
This area is today regarded by many leading academics, together with some of the leading players in the industry, as probably the best place on earth for growing supreme quality pecans. Even better conditions exist in Vaalharts than in North America, the native continent of pecans. Vaalharts may well develop in the nearby future into Mother Earth's new pecan hub.