Ever wondered how an avo makes its way from the tree to your shopping basket? Crush Online Magazine recently answered this question, while exploring Westfalia Fruit’s sustainable practices.

Sustainability is a key trend in the food world currently. As consumers we want to know where our food comes from and what impact it had on the world in its journey to us. This relates not only to animals and protein, but extends to fruits and veggies and everything in-between too. In fact, calling sustainability a trend is probably short-sighted: it is a way of life that’s here to stay.

At Westfalia Fruit the passion to care and conserve is evident in everything they do. Sustainability is an unmistakable part of the core values to which this multinational group commits – from their farming practices, production processes, water conservation policies and no-waste approach on their estates, to the welfare and education of staff members and their families.

Westfalia Fruit is part of Hans Merensky Holdings and one of the single largest avocado producers in the world. Their philosophy, upheld over 70 years, is to operate in an environmentally and socially responsible way, and this positively impacts everyone involved, from employees and the larger community, to customers or consumers.

Farming practices that sustain

Westfalia Fruit, known as the avocado experts, are also experts at sustaining our beautiful earth. Some of the key areas include the responsible use of resources like land, water and energy. The careful selection of cultivars suited to specific regions and climates, biological pest control programmes, as well as the reduced use of chemicals, adds to this.

This approach is important to everyone at each of the Westfalia farms, whether in Tzaneen, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape in South Africa or any other country around the world in which Westfalia grows and sources fruit. The commitment to sustainability is seen in everything they do, from their nurseries to the avocado packhouses, processing plants and distribution networks.

Ways with water

The conservation of water receives a lot of attention on Westfalia Fruit farms, from growing avocados to producing avocado-related products. Some examples include the building of reservoirs, removal of alien vegetation, conservation of indigenous plants and protection of water sources. Modern irrigation and production methods are more ways in which Westfalia conserves water. Dams and reservoirs provide water for farming needs and contribute to the well-being of natural habitats.

The monitoring and management of water use helps to reduce water needs on the farm and at the production facilities. Avocado tree prunings and other plant cuttings are used to produce mulch for the orchards to maintain the moisture levels in the soil. Water wastage is limited as much as possible and grey water from production processes is re-used in areas like the production of compost.

‘Bee’ around for longer

Projects have been undertaken to install and maintain bee colonies on some of the Westfalia estates. Bee hives are set up in suitable locations on the farms. Flowering plants, such as perennial basil, are planted to attract and keep the bees on the farms. The active role of bees in pollinating avocado trees and maintaining a balanced ecosystem delivers many positive results. Honey from the hives is harvested and sold by local communities.

From pip to tree with a no-waste approach

Every part of the planting and production process at Westfalia is carefully researched and managed to ensure continued sustainability. In an ongoing attempt to reduce waste, re-use and recycle as much as possible on the farm, compost is produced on a large scale.

Pruned branches or leaves that are not mulched are turned into compost. Any pips, peels and other organic waste from the production of Westfalia guacamole, avocado oils and other products like dried fruit are also turned into compost. The compost is worked back into the orchards or used in the Westfalia avocado tree nurseries and other areas of the farm.

People matter

Customers, suppliers and end-users are all considered when making sure that the best quality is produced, and sustainability standards are adhered to.

Westfalia strongly believes in the well-being of their people. Staff, their families and the greater community are all considered in terms of the social and economic impact of the group.

Job creation and education, skills development programmes, economic empowerment, equality, community development and staff growth are all approached with sustainability in mind. Day care centres, clinics and other facilities are available for staff members and their families. These are just some of the ways in which a tangible and lasting difference is made in everyone’s lives.

Westfalia Fruit is truly committed to sustainability in every sense of the word.

The next time you enjoy an avocado, perhaps take a moment to appreciate how it got to you.