Figs bring farming success for SA dentist

Before becoming a successful fig farmer, Stef Papendorf, a dentist from Rustenburg in South Africa (SA), had trouble finding figs in shops. This is why he decided to take matters into his own hands and established the now successful Hillcrest Boerdery.

A decade ago he had established Protea Orchards for the cut-flower market. However, after a disastrous fire on his neighbour’s farm, he lost most of his orchards. That is when he identified figs as a suitable replacement crop.

To start this endeavour, Papendorf made 80 cuttings of the purple Adam fig from his oldest orchard to establish more orchards. At present, he has 5 000 fig trees, particularly of the Adam and Deanna varieties. He also has some White Kadota for the purposes of jam-making.

He decided to do things differently and expanded with the Deanna fig. He did this by planting 1 200 trees. The Deanna fig further opens up export opportunities and will allow Papendorf to expand his business even more.

“I don’t want to plant what everyone else is planting. I’m focusing on the white fig,” Papendorf says.

Figs are not a popular crop in SA as there are only about 200 ha of fig orchards countrywide. Papendorf supplies ⅔ of figs to Woolworths stores, with the remaining balance going to the Tshwane Fresh Produce Market in Pretoria.

To stand out from the crowd, Papendorf designed a circular packaging system that classifies the figs according to their grades. His packaging and cooling facilities will expand alongside the fig harvest.

“Last year’s 5-ton harvest is expected to be between 10 and 11 tons this year. The plan is to have it double every year for the next few years,” Papendorf says.

Contact: Stef Papendorf –

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