In our unpredictable climate, farming is always a gamble. Sixth-generation farmer Fanie Landman is placing his bet in the fields of his farm Vogelfontein, east of Alexandria on the Eastern Cape’s Sunshine Coast, when I meet him.
“Chicory’s a very hardy, dry-land crop and, if you plant it at the right time, early before winter, you can do well,” he says optimistically as his tractors rumble up and down the field, creating furrows and ridges before the mechanical planter deposits seeds five centimetres apart.
“My oupa started farming chicory in the 1940s after the war when everything was scarce. It worked out perfectly: they had a good harvest. But my grandparents were so poor, they couldn’t afford to buy knives to chop the tops off the chicory roots, so Oupa took the ivory-handled Sheffield knives that they’d been given as a wedding present and used them in the fields,” he says.