Some time ago, on one of Fredo’s visits to the fruit growing regions of the north of South Africa, he got the opportunity to literally walk in the footsteps of the great Dr Hans Merensky.

Today Dr Merensky would have been 150 years old had he still been alive. To celebrate this the Westfalia Group which was founded by him made a new commitment – to also continue walking in his footsteps. They say that exactly 100 years after Westfalia, probably the best know avocado producing farm in the whole world, was founded, they want to have recovered the Group’s Lifetime Carbon emissions. The due date for this is 2049.

Now Fredo knows that a lot of old-times will have followed Dr Hans Merensky – in other ways – by then. So it will be up to the next generations to check if the Group in fact achieve this. In any event, they are showing a great example for all of us.

In Hans Merensky’s footsteps

This blog is however about Fredo’s journey into the world of Dr Merensky – in the woods on the hills of the wonderful Westfalia Estate. Courtesy of friend Louis Vorster Fredo was invited to stay in the guest lodge of Westfalia – to write some stories about the world of avocado’s and Westfalia’s role in it. The guest house speaks of history. Fredo was the only resident and the house keeper prepared a great meal for the two of us. Louis, senior executive at Westfalia, and his wife lived on the farm.

After an equally nice breakfast the next morning we explored the orchards and the packhouses to view the harvesting and packing processes. Louis was constantly talking about Dr Hans Merensky’s legacy and took me to the streams running down from the forest to see many of the signs that were erected at spots where the great Doctor did his work.

At the time invasive trees where spreading on the hills and mountains and in rivers which started drying up. Dr Hans Merensky started taking care of them and within a few years the clear waters from the mountains were flowing strongly again. And he planted avocados – which is known to be shy water users, and their leaves capture carbon. As one executive describes it: “Our soil is a carbon sink and we increase this potential each year by returning composted green materials back into the orchards.”

So today those conservation efforts is still alive and well at Westfalia.

Discovering great information from the past

That afternoon Fredo explored the estate on his own and found the local museum where there was a wealth of material reflecting the life of the founder. Dr Merensky indeed left his tracks all over Southern Africa. He travelled and worked on the diamond fields of Namibia before settling at Westfalia in the north. From there he presided over the fruit farming operations and the huge wood plantations in various parts of the country. There was hunting trips and the delightful old cottage – then farm offices – was the meeting place for all.

However, every chance he had, the Good Doctor walked the estate and planned his conservation work. Signs on trees and next to streams still tell the stories today and we collected great photographic material of this.

Louis Vorster, and his colleague Zac Baard, became good friends to us. Once Fredo took his German friends, Hardy Sader-Diers and Klaus Neugerbauer from Germany, there to introduce their marine cargo insurance business to them. Zac took us up in the hills on an open vehicle and we stopped on one of the dam walls high up in the orchards. From there we looked down over the orchards and the hills, down towards Tzaneen.

And Zac opened a few beers – and we sat there to contemplate how good life really was.

Thank you Dr Hans Merensky for creating this wonderful world – we treasure your legacy.