Homegrown, but world standard. This is how a local lady farmer does it.

The fact that she didn’t have her own farm didn’t prevent Vutlhari Chauke from pursuing opportunities in agriculture. She simply kept on searching until she found a farmer in Tarlton who was willing to lease some of the greenhouse tunnels on his farm to her.

On top of that, she convinced him to be a mentor to her, so that she could tap his mind for farming tips and tricks. In the end, her dogged determination certainly paid off, as she is now the proud owner of a 23-greenhouse tunnel commercial agri-business that supplies herbs and vegetables to the Tshwane Market and local hawkers.

Some of the herbs she supplies are coriander, fennel and wild rocket, and her vegetables include lettuce, tomatoes and spring onions. What really sets her business apart is that she plants her crops according to internationally approved health and safety standards. As a result, she has earned GLOBALG.A.P. Certification – a globally recognised farm certification scheme.

Vutlhari is especially passionate about herbs. Because different herbs can add so much zest and flavour to food, there is a massive demand for a wide variety of herbs, which naturally also means that you can plant a wide range of them. As such, Vutlhari easily supplies up to 12 different types of herbs to a single client.

In addition to being essential cooking ingredients, herbs are often used for medicinal purposes or for their aromatic scent. Whichever way, all indicators are that the herb industry in our country is set to consistently grow, with a compound annual growth rate of 8.63% recorded from 2014 to 2019.

Apart from the coriander that Vutlhari grows, some of the most popular herbs in South Africa, either for their culinary or medicinal qualities, are basil, chives, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme and lavender. Interesting to know is that herbs are generally easier to grow than most veggies, as they are hardier and don’t need a lot of fertiliser.

You can also grow them in a wide variety of different soil types and climates and even indoors in trays or pots, as long as you provide the right conditions for the right herbs. Herbs like parsley, mint and cilantro, for example, prefer cooler conditions. Mediterranean herbs, such as sage, rosemary and thyme, on the other hand, prefer dry soil and heat.

Utilising greenhouse tunnels like Vutlhari does is a really smart way to do it, as it allows you to control these conditions, keep pests at bay, and grow herbs all year round. It also enables you to put empty spaces to good use and even earn extra money from it.

So, if Vutlhari’s story has inspired you to consider growing herbs or veggies, but you’re worried that you don’t have a green thumb, we are happy to be the bearers of good news. All you really need is a solid understanding of the fundamentals of crop farming and how to put them into practice.

The best place to get this kind of knowledge and skills is from those who have successfully been doing it for ages. Which is why we highly recommend a short farming course with AgriSkills, which is not only hands-on and practical but also super affordable.

You can even opt for one of their online courses, which you can complete in your own time at your own pace. Go to http://agriskills.net/courses/ to enrol today. Then, be sure to follow @NicheFarmers on Facebook to connect, share and learn with other niche farmers.