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Meet the Growers

Our Grow Getters
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Hamish Godbold

Zuluflora Managing Director, Haycroft Farm, Hilton

Born and raised on the same farm in Hilton, where he now lives with his wife Kathryn and three children—Emma, 8, Matt, 6, and Jessica, 2—Hamish is a product of Hilton College and Stellenbosch University, where he obtained a BSc Forestry (Hons).

Fueled by wanderlust and a hunger for adventure, after completing his studies, he joined the British Army where he rose to become a captain in the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment.

In the meantime, while he was jumping out of planes, his father Miles had sold his agricultural contracting business and started a protea-growing agri-business on the family farm in Hilton.

After seven years in the army, however, Hamish felt the pull of home tugging at his heart. Looking to settle down, the thought of raising a family on the Hilton farm where he had grown up, along with being pioneers in a new and untested area, was a no-brainer for him.

The farm is now quite different to the one he remembers growing up on—gone is the small dairy and horse-riding school. In their place is a sea of proteas, pincushions, and some other test varieties, like hydrangeas, with about 20ha of the property now under flower cultivation.

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Jonathan ‘Jono’ Chennells

``The Chase`` Farm, Eshowe

Eshowe’s tight-knit sense of community made such a deep impression on Frank Chennells when he passed through the area in 1900 with his British regiment en route to break the Boer siege of Ladysmith that he decided to put down roots near the rural hamlet, located 147km north of Durban, 20 years later, with the establishment of Chase Farms.

Farming may be in the family’s DNA, but his grandson, Jonathan Chennells, the current owner of Chase Farms, concedes he initially had serious doubts when his father Guy asked him to manage the family farm.

A third-generation descendant of a family who’ve farmed in the area for nearly 100 years, Jonathan had no desire to follow his forbears into farming, and the move was a difficult one for him at first, he admits. A business economics honours graduate of Stellenbosch University and a qualified CA, the eldest of six siblings was all set for a promising career in the financial sector, when his father came knocking.

However, more than 30 years—and four children—later, he and his family have no regrets, he says. Having later purchased the farm from his father, Jonathan built on the original operation substantially, adding sugar cane, bananas and now cut-flowers to the farming mix.

Keen on driving further expansion, The Chase farming team, consisting of Jonathan, Patrick Kennedy, and Brian Korff, looked at diversifying further, and when the Zuluflora option came up, it provided exactly the right ‘fit’ they were searching for in terms of stability and experience.

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Simon Chennells

``Amersham`` Farm, Mount Verde Estate, Hilton

Early Years

The youngest of four siblings, Simon, like his uncle, was born in Eshowe, and, together with his three sisters, was raised on the family sugar farm, “Ash Hill”, at Amatikulu, 32 km southeast of Eshowe.

After completing his schooling in Cape Town, Simon studied hotel management at Le Quartier Francais, an award-winning hotel and restaurant, where he immersed himself in every aspect of the hotel trade, from scrubbing toilets to preparing 10-course gourmet meals.

In 2006 Simon left for Massachusetts, where he was offered a position at Blantyre, a 24-bedroom boutique hotel situated in the small town of Lenox. It was during this time that he met his future wife Kate Ross late one night at a local bar in 2007.

After four years in the States, Simon returned to South Africa with Kate in 2010 and took up a position at the La Motte wine estate in Franschhoek, where he managed its restaurant for just under a year.

Amersham Farm

In 2011, Simon’s father Tim and uncle Bryan invited him to head their new farm operation at “Amersham”, a newly purchased 60ha land holding at Mount Verde Estate in Hilton.

Initially they considered planting berries, but in 2012, inspired by the Godbold’s success in protea-cultivation, they settled on flowers. That year was a busy yet momentous year for Simon, with up to 8ha of protea and pin-cushions planted and Simon and Kate tying the knot in the US.

Amersham now has 35ha zoned for protea cultivation, with just over 20ha currently planted with more than 12 different varieties.

In March 2016, he and his wife welcomed a new addition to the farm: their son Benjamin.

Our intent was always to get involved in the value added chain of things….this is where Zuluflora came into the picture. The benefits of being in control of your own product is a huge advantage.
Simon Chennells

Grower at Amersham Farm, Mount Verde Estate, Hilton
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James Christopher

``Windham Hill`` Farm, Mount Verde Estate, Hilton

James grew up in Ladysmith, northern KZN, and after schooling in the KZN Midlands, studied engineering in Cape Town. On graduating in 2003, he spent four years in the British Army, which he followed with a stint working as a project manager for an engineering consultancy in London. During this period, he met his English wife Alexa.

After completing an MSc in Programme and Project Management, they moved to Johannesburg in 2011 where he continued to work as a project manager.

However, when their son, Harry, and twins, Caroline and Rachel, were born in 2012 and 2013 respectively, the prospect of raising their family in a country setting drew him back to the Midlands and when his father, Tony, acquired a 60ha farm in the Mount Verde Estate in 2014, they moved down to Hilton.

With the support of Zuluflora, they began planting proteas in March 2015 and to date they’ve planted 15 hectares, with a further 24ha planned by 2018.

“Our vision is to create a sustainable farming business primarily focused on protea production, but balanced with livestock pasture farming,” explained James.

Protea farming in the KZN Midlands is made significantly more commercially feasible by growing within Zuluflora. The group is strengthened by the fact that it’s made up of like-minded families who share the same goals and ethos. Farming can be a lonely career, but not when there’s the mutual support, guidance and fellowship of working alongside the Zuluflora team on a day-to-day basis. We all have a vested interest and vision to grow Zuluflora into the top protea grower and exporter in South Africa.
James Christopher

Grower at Windham Hill farm, Mount Verde, Hilton
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Neil Hall

“Philadelphia” Farm, Citrusdal, Western Cape

The newest addition to Zuluflora, Neil was born in Johannesburg, but raised in Cape Town. He developed a love for the outdoors from an early age, which influenced both his choice of degree, and ultimately, career.

After obtaining his matric, he studied an Agribusiness degree at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, for which he received Honours. He also completed a B.Com degree at the same institution.

While at university, his family purchased a farm at Citrusdal in the Western Cape, which they intended him taking over once his tertiary studies were completed. Before embarking on this venture, however, he first spent three years working for a citrus packaging and export company in Citrusdal.

In 2010, the Hall family planted the first five hectares of flowers on the farm now known as Philadelphia. Today, there are over 20 hectares planted with plans for further expansion.

Flower farming was chosen for its unique value proposition: a typically South African niche product that comes into production within 24 months. After four seasons in production, a decision was taken to package the farm products in a branded carton and from this, Temba Flowers was born.

Neil married Olivia in 2008, and together, they have two sons, Caleb, 6, and Ethan, 4.

Neil views his decision to join the Zuluflora group as a great opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the South African flower industry.

The opportunity to work alongside and develop one’s business with other like-minded growers is unique. As the old saying goes, unity is strength, and there’s no doubt that much more can be achieved through collaboration.
Neil Hall

“Philadelphia” Farm, Citrusdal, Western Cape
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Kerry Rowlands

Group Technical Manager, Zuluflora Group

Kerry grew up in Hilton and attended the then University of Natal where she obtained a BSc Agric (Honours) degree in Horticulture. She thereafter spent several years in the UK where she completed a postgraduate certificate in education and worked in various London high schools as a maths and science teacher.

On her return to South Africa, she resumed her career in training, first working as an education project manager for an environmental NGO, before taking up a post as the regional training manager for a large corporate company.

However, with her agricultural ‘roots’ still running deep, when an opportunity arose at Zuluflora in April 2016 for a technical adviser, she seized it with both hands and hasn’t looked back.

“I hope to make a significant contribution towards assisting Zuluflora fulfill its vision of becoming one of the world’s top protea producers,” she concluded.

Kerry is married to Troy and together, they have two daughters: Caitlyn, 5, and Tessa, 3.

I love being part of the Zuluflora team and working with people who are dynamic, forward thinking and really want to make their mark on this industry. In my role as Group Technical Manager it makes a huge difference working with growers who embrace new ideas and strive to continuously improve.
Kerry Rowlands

Group Technical Manager, Zuluflora Group

Our Farm Story

Ready, Steady, Grow!

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About Us

Zuluflora was founded in 2013

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Farm Gallery

A Glimpse of Zuluflora

Afternoon light in the packshed illuminates Haycroft packshed staff Nokulunga Mwelase, Sindisiwe Ngubane and Cebile Zaca as they place ‘Succession’ stems on the packing line.