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From the farm to budding retailers

| Social Responsibility

Sixteen aspiring young farmer interns from the Living Soils Community Learning farm in Lynedoch, Stellenbosch, recently took a break from their farming studies to immerse themselves in the world of retail.

This unique opportunity saw the interns spending a week at Woolworths' flagship Waterstone store, where they delved into the intricacies of the food supply chain and customer service.

Each intern was paired with a dedicated mentor from the Woolworths team, who guided them through the various aspects of a successful retail operation. This comprehensive experience covered customer service, understanding food chain disciplines, and the importance of stock availability.

“The purpose of this immersive week at our store was to expose young farmers to the retail side of the food supply chain, complementing their overall learning experience at the Living Soils Community Learning Farm," explained Ismail Arnold, Store Manager Woolworths Waterstone. "Recognising that not all young farmers may choose a career solely in primary agriculture, we wanted to offer them an alternative pathway by inviting them to step into some aspects of the food value chain and our 'retail world’”.

The Living Soils Community Learning Farm, a partnership project between Woolworths, Spier and the Sustainability Institute, aims to address food security, climate change, soil and biodiversity loss, poverty and unemployment, and agriculture inclusivity in South Africa.  The project forms part of Woolworths’ Inclusive Justice Initiative, one of the pillars of the company’s Good Business Journey and commitment to care for the environment, people, and communities. The Inclusive Justice Initiative sets out to acknowledge that certain groups in society are marginalised and to help shape a world in which everyone is included in and feels they belong, which includes preparing these young farmers for economic participation.

Each year, a new group of young farmers, who are completing their diplomas in agriculture, join the farm as interns where they gain hands-on experience in regenerative agricultural practices as well as participate in a skills development plan which tackles work readiness skills, problem solving and people management to help equip them for potential employment in array of opportunities in the agricultural value chain.

Comments from the interns in reflection of the week,

“As someone who has mainly focussed on the production side of food, this experience has enhanced my understanding of agricultural value and has given me a valuable perspective-of the industry at large.”

“The best thing about this experience was that we got to see that quality is not only important for Woolies products but it’s also the way customers are served with a smile, respect and appreciation.”

“Quality here at Woolworths means that the chips are hugged and patted on the back, it means going from the freezer back to the floor in two minutes to not break the cold chain, it means serving the customers with a smile and rearranging the shelves every second.”

By bridging the gap between farming and retail, the collaboration between the Living Soils Community Learning Farm and Woolworths provides invaluable insights and potential career opportunities for young farmers. With a comprehensive understanding of the entire food supply chain, these interns are equipped to make informed choices about their future endeavours, be it in farming or the retail industry.

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