Bosman Vineyards reaps empowerment rewards
As one drives through the gates of Bosman Family Vineyards in Wellington, it is hard not to be struck by a sense of history. However, like many farms in this Cape winelands area, the estate, which has stayed in Bosman hands for eight generations, has its sights set on the future when it comes to sustainability and development.
In 2008, the farm entered into the biggest black economic empowerment (BEE) deal in the wine industry to date, with eligible workers receiving co-ownership of 430ha of prime farming land through the Adama Workers Trust.
Last year, the estate was overall winner of the Fairtrade Award at the International Wine Challenge.
Presented in London, the accolade goes to the highest-quality wine with a Fairtrade certification, an international ethical programme whose main aim is to promote more equality and sustainability in the farming sector.
Jannie Bosman Sr chairs the farm’s executive committee. He has close to four decades’ experience and all four of his children are involved in the business.
Rita Andreas, former chairwoman of the Adama Worker’s Trust, says the 2008 empowerment deal is an example of the "hard changes" that need to be made in the name of transformation in SA.
"The farmers were used to making their own decisions, like if they want to buy a truck. Now, they have to share that decision-making.
That is a little bit strange (for them)…. For the workers, (there was) a lot of training. It was a new thing. Some of them couldn’t believe it," says the former trust chair.
Andreas was born and grew up on the farm, and says the Bosmans have always been progressive. The trust has added to its estate holdings, owning 50% each of the farms De Rust and De Bos.
The deal has allowed the workers to establish several community projects, and means they feel they can immediately tackle issues as equals with the Bosman family, says Andreas. "It’s not, I am boss, you are worker," she says.
Petrus Bosman’s interest in wine began when he accompanied his grandfather on his daily routine around the estate.
"What I enjoy the most is the environment we work in. It’s not only the magnificently beautiful countryside, but also that you get to work with wonderful people and grow wonderful relationships together," he says.
The emphasis on growing relationships is one Jannie Sr believes in too. Over the years, he has been responsible for implementing structures such as a workers’ committee that serves as a communication platform, and several social initiatives.
Jannie Sr now devotes much of his time to special expansions and projects related to the vine nursery and wine business.
"The oldest vines are on our farm Optenhorst, where we have a single bush vine vineyard that was planted in 1952," says Jannie Jr, the estate’s vine nursery manager, of what is also the oldest vineyard in the Wellington, Franschhoek and Paarl regions. "The skill of grafting is passed on from one generation to the next. A large component of our staff (of about 300) have been working here for as long as five generations and own a 26% share in the business today."
The 2008 empowerment deal is one of the reasons Bosman Family Vineyards was recognised at The Drinks Business Green Awards, the world’s largest programme to raise awareness of green issues in the drinks trade and reward those who are leading the way in sustainability and environmental performance. The estate was 2015 runner-up for Ethical Company of the Year, an award given to "a company or product whose foundations are firmly based in, and dedicated to, the community and/or environment where they are based".
"As a team, we understand we exist in a continuum; our present is connected to our past, and to those who will come after us," says Petrus Bosman. "Our aim is to continuously improve on social and environmental sustainability. This inherently brings better quality, and leads to growth and prosperity for everyone on the farm."
"In the past five years, there has been an overall growth in the quality of Fairtrade-certified wines, and Bosman Family Vineyards is the cherry on the cake," says Arianna Baldo, the executive director of Fairtrade Label SA.
"It demonstrates again and again how quality and sustainability are not mutually exclusive, and how their marriage is a win-win-win situation: for the business, consumers, and farm workers."
The recognition was for De Bos Walker Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2014, and followed in the footsteps of Taste the Difference Chenin Blanc 2011, which received the award in 2012, and is part of UK retailer Sainsbury’s Premium Fairtrade range. The sales of the wine, whose name refers to the Hemel-en-Aarde valley vineyards owned by the Bosman family and the Adama Appollo Workers Trust, allows for the creation and expansion of many social projects.
This includes the acquisition of two small buses used to transport school children and the elderly who live on the Bosman estates, the renovation of a community centre that houses a preschool for about 100 children, and a bursary scheme for those who want to play roles in the business.
"I believe in youthful, energetic, and skilful people," says Jannie Sr.
"They have great ideas and initiative, and I try to help them harness and develop their positive energy into real potential, with a tangible outcome … I don’t want them to say that they work for me. They work for themselves, their families, and their future."
Lelienfontein is open for tastings on Saturdays from 10am-3pm.
It includes a tour of the 250-year old cellar, where you will see original tools and barrels used eight generations ago, learn about how the Bosman family has been grafting vines since 1888, and hear about the social-upliftment programme. Cost includes the tour and the tasting of five wines.
Additional reporting by Sue Blaine