When life gives you lemons, make a lemon farm

From fruit hawker to commercial lemon farmer in just seven years, the story of Wayne Mansfield certainly gives new meaning to the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Whilst Wayne knew how to sell lemons, he certainly did not know how to grow lemons when he embarked on this amazing journey.

When Wayne noticed the market gap, he jumped in the deep end by leasing some land and learning all about lemon farming along the way. Today, his 12-hectare family farming business, named Fruitfield Farming in Paarl, Western Cape, produces about 400 tonnes of lemon of which 90% is exported and the rest supplied locally.

Wayne already has his eye on the next stage of growth – he aims to grow to a 120-hectare farm over the next few years. Naturally, he can personally testify to the fact that if you have a helping hand or two, you don’t need to know everything about farming to get into the farming business.

Wayne gets assistance with the farming side of things from the Department of Agriculture in the Western Cape. He also taps into the experience of a few mentor farmers. According to Wayne, two of the most critical aspects of farming with lemons is to make sure that you have the right fertilisers to yield optimal crops and to keep pests and diseases at bay.

For this reason, he works closely with the agronomists at Laeveld Agrochem, who not only supply him with fertilisers and pesticides but also visit his farm weekly to look at his crops and make recommendations. Wayne’s most important advice for an upcoming farmer? “Learn to understand what your market wants and work towards that.”

On that point, there is no doubt a local and global market for lemons, so making sure your lemons meet local and global standards is a great point of departure. To give you an idea, South Africa is currently one of the top four exporters of lemons and limes in the world. We produce around 40% of the world’s exports, and all indicators are that this market will keep growing.

For example, the Foreign Agricultural Service of the United States Department of Agriculture recently estimated that South Africa’s production of lemons and limes will grow by 7% from 2020/2021 to a historic high of 670 000 metric tonnes by the end of the 2021/2022 season. 

The areas that are currently planted with lemons and limes in our country have also grown more than threefold over the past 10 years, due to this rising global demand and compounded by a rise in prices. Right now, the leading growing region is the Eastern Cape, which represents around 42% of the total area planted with lemon and limes, followed by Limpopo with 31%, and Western Cape with 14%. 

If you’re keen to follow in the inspirational footsteps of commercial lemon farmer Wayne Mansfield, but you’re scared that your story might go sour, why not do what many niche farmers have done? Start on a small scale by growing lemons in your backyard or in containers, so you can first get the lay of the land before you go big. 

If you’re keen to follow this advice, have a look at this great article we found in the South African Garden & Home: https://www.gardenandhome.co.za/gardening/kitchen-gardening/growing-lemons/.

If you’re ready to go all in, why not check in with Laeveld Agrochem to see how their agricultural specialists can help you make the most of your crops from the word go. For more info, go to www.laeveld.co.za. Follow @NicheFarmers on Facebook to connect with and learn from other niche farmers.