A Finger in the Tikketai pie

Jan 19, 2023 | Community

Veronika Finger, owner of the Dwarsweg Nursery is responsible for sowing the broccoli and cauliflower seeds on behalf of the farmers who produces first-grade produce for Tikketai all year round.

Nearly 22 years ago, Veronika Finger acted on an opportunity and made the brave decision to leave her job as a secretary. She was ready to get her hands dirty and started a vegetable seedling nursery at the foot of the Jonkersberg, just outside George. Today she forms part of the very successful Tikketai value chain that wholesales first-grade broccoli and cauliflower all year round.

Her zest for life has a ring to it – like a symphony of pleasure. If I did not know better, I would have thought that it is her passion and energy that makes the seedlings grow.  

The nursery was born

Veronika’s husband, Vernon, was an agronomist for McCains and was involved in the planning of vegetable production in the Garden Route area. He saw the need for a nursery that can provide local farmers with high-quality vegetable seedlings. “I knew less than nothing about growing seedlings”, she laughs. 

The book Rich Dad Poor Dad had a life-changing impact on Veronika as it re-aligned her mindset towards working for herself and towards her own wealth. This was the last push she needed to take the step toward starting the nursery.

She started Buffelsdrift Nursery in 2001 in partnership with brothers Gerhard and Dewald Barnard and Jannie Stander. The nursery ran out of capacity and the need arose for expansion. The partners decided against the expansion of the current nursery but then another door opened for Veronika. “Ruben Barnard offered me a piece of land to lease and set up a second nursery and I called it Dwarsweg Nursery.”

She operated both nurseries for many years and in 2021 Dewald’s wife, Petro, decided to grow vegetables at the Buffelsdrift Nursery which resulted in this facility not being available as a nursery for seedlings anymore.  

Lessons from the nursery

“I learned many expensive lessons. I never knew how challenging it is to work with people and how tough it is to meet the demands of the farmers. But I grew to love every person I deliver a service to – I got to know them, understand them and today I enjoy every second of working with them, but you need to walk the straight and narrow with them”, she shares.

She explains how she needed to understand the impact of the planned sowing date of the seeds on the whole process thereafter. “If we are a week behind schedule with sowing the seeds, the farmer will not be able to harvest and deliver the agreed amount of broccoli and cauliflower to the Tikketai factory, resulting in Tikketai not being able to deliver on the promise towards their retailing clients. This is an interdependent partnership, and it is vital that each partner in the chain sticks to the programme”, she explains.

Quality at her fingertips

Veronika’s recipe for a good quality seedling is the quality of the seeds she uses, the planting medium used, and sterilizing the planting trays to ensure that everything is sterile. She praises her great team of people who are reliable and knowledgeable and assist her with babysitting and caring for the seedlings.  

“This brings me to the last ingredient – love and attention. These seedlings must get just the right amount of water and fertilizer and the necessary fungicides and insecticides. I find great satisfaction in providing farmers with strong, good quality seedlings that have the potential to produce first-grade broccoli or cauliflower heads”, she states.

Veronika’s happy place

Veronika had her deal of hardship with losing her brother and having to take his two children into foster care 21 years ago. “I suddenly had four children”, she adds. Vernon and Veronika also lost their son just over seven years ago in a tragic accident. Veronika’s energy, positive and lively being is admirable considering her losses and suffering. “The nursery has been good to me. It is my happy place where I can be still and find peace of mind. I get joy from seedlings. They are patient, appreciative and the best part is that they don’t talk back”, she says. 

She concludes, “There has not been one day of regret for deciding to start the nursery in 2001. I get a kick when I see the broccoli and cauliflower on the shelves in supermarkets knowing that I have been a part of the process of producing it.”